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New Materials = New Opportunities

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Steven Camilleri—SPEE3D’s co-founder and CTO—knows it’s an interesting time for metal additive manufacturing.

Last year alone, 7 billion USD was invested into academic research and development. Today, a whole host of Industry 4.0 and sustainability initiatives continues to generate applicable funding for universities.

For SPEE3D, this influx of capital has paved the way for new research partnerships—and with them, opportunities to explore new alloys, applications, material properties, coatings, morphology, and post-processing methodologies.

The company is currently working with Naval Sea Systems (NAVSEA) in the U.S. to establish a minimum performance level for Nickel Aluminium Bronze, a material it will officially add to its full release materials portfolio by mid-June 2024.

Here’s an overview of what Steven had to say.

Why Nickel Aluminium Bronze?

Nickel Aluminium Bronze is a strong modern material with self-lubricating properties and a high degree of corrosion-resistance, making it ideal for a wide variety of maritime applications. It’s highly resistant to abrasion, erosion, and sea life biofouling—and is galvanically compatible with steel and iron.

Developing the material for Cold Spray Additive Manufacturing (CSAM)—the company’s proprietary, breakthrough technology—is no small task.

Acquiring the right feedstock powder for the process, optimizing spraying parameters, and determining the right heat treatment methods—it’s all essential to achieving the desired geometry and material properties, and it all requires extensive, iterative testing and experimentation.

And that takes time and money.

Test. Rinse. Repeat.

In addition to the standard challenges of developing a new material for the CSAM process, Nickel Aluminium Bronze presents SPEE3D researchers with several unique complexities.

Because the alloy is rich (~20%) in other elements, it’s more easily damaged by the powder atomization process—which makes the powder itself harder and less sprayable. This, in turn, inflates the expense, reduces the build rate, and increases porosity.

For Steven and his team, overcoming these complexities meant experimenting with alternative methods.

From spraying blends of elemental powders and combinations of master alloys to using hot isostatic pressing (HIP) to enhance material properties, the research team tried several approaches before discovering that the sequence of processes significantly affected the outcome.

In the end, they found cold spraying and then  homogenizing  the microstructure prior to HIPping to be the most effective strategy.

Partnership powers progress

As governments continue to prioritize research initiatives and increase funding rates, opportunities abound for academic institutions across the U.S. and Europe.

For SPEE3D, this has opened the door for new partnerships that advance and accelerate research into new possibilities for the CSAM process.

Collaborations like the one with NAVSEA—and research into new materials like Nickel Aluminium Bronze—are a critical part of the company’s business model.

And they’re changing the game for the metal additive manufacturing industry.