The constantly increasing demand for new, environmentally friendly and sustainable technologies enabling the production of innovative components, including those intended for devices used in obtaining energy from renewable sources and also the marine equipment sector, were the inspiration to undertake the actions in this field.
The experience gained by IMN (Consortium Leader) related to the technology to produce wires from different materials for many applications including additive technologies and the research work on the development of the 3DMP® (3D Metal Print) technology lead by Gefertec formed the basis for starting the cooperation. The cooperation between IMN and Gefertec was established within the jointly developed MERA.NET project which is focused on titanium alloys intended for the aircraft industry. The growing interest of Gefertec’s clients in 3D printed components made of highly durable corrosion resistant materials based on copper alloys which are hence suitable for operating in seawater environment was the reason to intensify their work in this area. The primary purpose of this project is to increase the technological readiness level of the production process of corrosion resistant components using the 3DMP® technology from TRL 5 to 9 (Fig. 1).
One innovativeness of the technical solution proposed in this project, besides the manufacturing technology, lies in the application of input materials in the form of wires made of copper alloys as well as in optimization of their chemical composition towards capabilities to operate in aggressive corrosive environments. The consortium was extended with other partners with a sound expertise in material characterization and/or activities in the field of material usage in harsh, including marine, environments. The overall knowledge and available technology can now be upscaled and lead to industrial implementation of the 3DMP technology using innovative Cu alloys, which have the main advantage of being corrosion resistant and hence are ideal candidate materials for use in marine environments. Wires as input materials have many advantages, in particular: more than twofold lower price (see Table 1, which contains example of comparison of production costs of wires and powders from different alloys), higher efficiency, higher deposition rate and also are not harmful to health compared with the more commonly used input materials which are metal powders (Figs. 2-3).
Additionally, the possibility to easily recycle those materials allows reusing them to produce new elements, which is entirely in line with the KIC strategic objectives. The 3DMP® technology is being developed by Gefertec and the perspective for its application involves many branches of the industry. It is part of one of the six strategic technologies included in the Key Enabling Technologies (KETs). The project will result in the development of a production technology which will allow the replacement of the currently used energyintensive casting technologies used to produce large components. 3DMP® technology represents an additive technology which allows to produce elements of complicated shapes and high level of complexity based on 3D CAD models. The technology can be used to produce elements which are hard to produce with traditional casting methods, plastic working and machining. The evolution towards a vital role for 3DMP® technology will increase in the future in dedicated industrial sectors (e.g. aircraft, medical fields). For example, thanks to the 3D printing technology it is possible to produce structures with internal cooling channels of any orientation. It is also possible to produce lightweight components due to the use of a cellular internal structure instead of solid material. The solutions developed within the project can be also used to design and produce other metal components for different industries, with an initial focus on tidal energy as well as marine equipment.
Fig. 1. Idea and methodology scheme of the project.
Fig. 2. Deposition rates for various additive manufacturing technologies.
Fig. 3. Global comparison of different additive manufacturing technologies.
Table 1. Cost comparison between wire and powder feedstock for various materials.