Researchers in the Penn State College of Engineering received USD 434,000 from the United States Army to develop additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, techniques for high strength steels and alloys. Through this project, Palmer, the principal investigator of the project, and Amrita Basak, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and co-principal investigator, plan to expand the use of these materials in ways that will both save costs and increase utility by using additive manufacturing. The laser based directed energy deposition L-DED additive manufacturing process, which builds a component layer by layer and fuses them together with a laser, could allow engineers to design more intricate pieces. However, the properties of the steel and the printing process to create them need to be better understood and controlled. The researchers will specifically study a wire-fed manufacturing process, which introduces the source material compressed into a wire, as opposed to a powder. The researchers suggest this method could increase cost-effectiveness by producing fewer wasted materials.
Combined with the abilities of the faculty and students, the laboratories at Penn State such as the Materials Research Institute, the Applied Research Laboratory, Center for Innovative Materials Processing Through Direct Digital Deposition and the Center for Innovative Sintered Products provide the researchers with the ability to push the current boundary of additive manufacturing. While a large part of the project will be using computer modeling to test and refine the parameters of the printing process, with these on-campus facilities, the team will not be limited to solely creating simulations. The researchers plan to manufacture large-scale components to provide impactful experimental data.
High strength and hardness steels are a class of materials that are well suited for and currently used in many defense-relevant applications, such as personal armor, armored vehicles, specialized facilities for blast and ballistic protection and marine ship hulls. While high grade steel is well suited for these uses, the material is difficult to manufacture traditionally.