3D-printed permanent magnets outperform conventional versions, conserve rare materials

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CMI researchers demonstrated that permanent magnets produced by additive manufacturing can outperform bonded magnets made using traditional techniques while conserving critical materials. The research was conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in collaboration with CMI researchers at Ames Laboratory. 

They fabricated isotropic, near-net-shape, neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) bonded magnets at DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL using the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine. The result, published in Scientific Reports, was a product with comparable or better magnetic, mechanical, and microstructural properties than bonded magnets made using traditional injection molding with the same composition.

The additive manufacturing process began with composite pellets consisting of 65 volume percent isotropic NdFeB powder and 35 percent polyamide (Nylon-12) manufactured by Magnet Applications, Inc. The pellets were melted, compounded, and extruded layer-by-layer by BAAM into desired forms.

While conventional sintered magnet manufacturing may result in material waste of as much as 30 to 50 percent, additive manufacturing will simply capture and reuse those materials with nearly zero waste, said Parans Paranthaman, who leads the CMI project and is a group leader in ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division. 

The printing process not only conserves materials but also produces complex shapes, requires no tooling and is faster than traditional injection methods, potentially resulting in a much more economic manufacturing process, Paranthaman said.

Contributing to the project were Ling Li, Angelica Tirado, Orlando Rios, Brian Post, Vlastimil Kunc, R. R. Lowden, Edgar Lara-Curzio at ORNL, as well as researchers I. C. Nlebedim and Thomas Lograsso working with CMI at Ames Laboratory. Robert Fredette and John Ormerod from Magnet Applications Inc. (MAI) contributed to the project through an MDF technology collaboration. The DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office provides support for ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, a public-private partnership to engage industry with national labs.

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