A small research company in Sweden has announced a unique breakthrough in bulk "metallic glass" manufacturing.
The Big Friendly Giant, a character in a children's book of the same name by Roald Dahl. To a materials scientist it is Bulk Metallic Glasses or glassy alloys.
Transparency is associated with the amorphous state. But whereas ordinary glass is an insulator, a glassy metal can be an electrical conductor.
Exmet's breakthough is that they have demonstrated how the additive manufacturing process called Electron Beam Melting can be used to make products from Glassy Metals. The material is extremely strong (2 to 15 times that of a normal crystalline metal), extremely plastic, non-corrosive and potentially highly resistant against metal fatigue. Thus, just as using polymer rather than ordinary glass for eye lenses results in a much lighter pair of reading glasses, glassy metals could bring similar benefits to a range of industrial product areas, including biomedical implant manufacturing. Imagine for example, a titanium amorphous state.
Previously, production of glassy metals was limited by inadequate manufacturing methods set by traditional approaches such as casting, melt spinning and thermoplastic forming.
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Each 3D Printer maker is always trying to extend the range of materials available for their process. This applies whether you are MakerBot (Fused Deposition Modelling) at the 'enthusiast engineer' end of the market with PLA, ABS and PVA filament or Objet (advanced 'Inkjet' 3D Printing) for the production of professional prototype or 'end use' parts with a range of over one hundred photo-curable polymers.
At the same time, materials suppliers are constantly improving and adapting existing materials or are developing new materials for use within existing AM processes. This applies whether you are faberdashery at the 'maker' end of the market creating unique filament for your RepRap spool, or Exmet at the extremes of materials R&D conjuring up 'glassy metals' for use on Arcam Electron Beam Melting (EBM) machines.