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Novel multiplex operation for additive manufacturing of components made from a combination of low-melting metals and thermoplastics

Country of Origin: Germany
Reference Number: TODE20171124001
Publication Date: 4 December 2017

Summary

A team of German researchers developed a multiplex operation and the corresponding equipment for the additive manufacturing of components made from a combination of one or more low-melting or amorphous metals as well as one or more thermoplastics with similar melting temperatures. A cooperation on the basis of a licence or in the frame of a research cooperation agreement is envisaged.

Description

Three German scientists developed a novel technology and the corresponding equipment for the additive manufacturing of components made of metals and thermoplastics at the same time.

Nowadays, there are many components in the industrial manufacturing which are made of two or more different materials like for instance plastic housing with integrated metallic bearing or threaded bushing, plastic components with integrated electric lines or mechanically resistant plastic parts with a metallic lightweight structural reinforcement. For the production of those components a range of different technologies were established in the last 30 years which vary in the kind of layer generation in connection with the basic materials. The most important technologies are stereolithography (STL), 3D-printing (3DP), polymer printing, selective laser sintering/melting (SLS/SLM), electron beam melting (EBM) and the fused deposition modeling (FDM).

The range of these additive production processes is based on the layer-wise construction of components by selective application of material. Differences between the methods are to state in the variations of the aggregation states and the connection or fixation of the materials.

An important method here is the fused deposition modeling. A thermoplastic plastic wire is pressed through a heated nozzle. By virtue of the construction platform and / or the extruder, the wire forms the individual layers of the component on the construction platform. A characteristic of this process is that the resulting components are not surrounded by loose material. They are free to form. The application possibilities of different materials are particularly advantageous in the case of fused deposition modeling, wherein these are reduced to thermoplastics in the current state of the art. Moreover, in the case of the conventional laser or electronic-screen-based additive manufacturing processes it is disadvantageous that the powdered starting material does not vary in the process and consequently no simultaneous processing of metals and plastics can be realized. The high melting temperatures of most metals are compounded which can lead to deformation or destruction of the polymer during a joint production process with plastic.

All known methods have the same problem: They do not provide the possibility to process the different materials in a multiplex way.

In the offered new developed production process a combination of low-melting or amorphous metal and a thermoplastic is used as a material in a multiplex operation for the first time. In this process, which is also referred to polymer-metal printing, the construction of a component takes place by means of extrusion (compression molding of solid to viscous masses under thermo-mechanical action) of a low-melting or amorphous metal granulate and a thermoplastic material in layers. This is done by means of two extruders and a suitable kinematics, which provides two-dimensional positioning. After the contour and the filling of the first layer have been applied and cooled, the layer thickness is adjusted by raising the extruders or depressions of the construction platform. These steps are repeated until a form-fitting connection of the extruded metallic and polymeric regions to a component is established. An important precondition for the application of this process are the similar melting or glass transition temperatures and thus also the corresponding processing temperatures.

The offered technology and equipment are at a demonstration stage. Now, the scientists are looking for industrial partners who are interested in integrating this novel technology in their production process on the basis of a license agreement and/or in a further development in the frame of a research cooperation agreement in order to transfer this technology into industrial practice.

Advantages and Innovations

Compared with the state of the art following advantages and innovations of the developed technology can be defined:

- Multiplex additive processing of plastics and metals
- Manufactured components can consist of metal, plastics as well as a combination of both materials
- Accurate adjustment of extrusion temperature
- Realization of components with targeted local functional characteristics

Stage Of Development

Available for demonstration

Requested partner

Type and Role of Partner Sought: Industry

Task to be performed:
- Further development and integration in manufacturing processes. Transfer the new developed technology into industrial practice.

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