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3D Printing of Multi-Material Structures: FY17 Line-Supported Novel and Engineered Materials Program

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Technical Report

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Massachuetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory Lexington United States

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The need to miniaturize unmanned areal vehicles, satellites, and devices requires shaping metals or ceramics into complex, three-dimensional geometries for applications such as electrically small antennae, inductors, microactuators, micro heat exchangers, thermal shielding elements, and integrated thermomechanical packaging. However, the optimum shape of these components or structures is frequently not practical or even possible with conventional manufacturing methods. Internal features and three-dimensional cellular geometries cannot be manufactured by machining or lithography. Furthermore, performance of a component or structure can often be further improved by constructing it from two or more dissimilar materials. For example, a temperature resistant ceramic can be coated or bonded onto a low density metal to optimize both thermal and structural performance. Difficulties also arise in this case because bonding materials or coating internal surfaces is challenging and the interface between two materials is typically a point of stress concentration and weakness. Far preferable would it be to have the capability to transition smoothly from one material to another, avoiding stepped interfaces, to create what is known as a functionally graded material. A sharp transition in certain properties, such as magnetism, can actually be desirable. Three-dimensional 3D printing has the potential to manufacture these complex parts with controlled composition and functionality, but the resolution, surface finish, and multi-material capability of current 3D printing technologies are insufficient. This project therefore sought to develop a high resolution method of 3D printing metals, ceramics, and metal-ceramic composites.

Subject Categories:

  • Lasers and Masers
  • Manufacturing and Industrial Engineering and Control of Production Systems

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