Critical Materials Institute takes major step toward printed anisotropic magnets

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute has taken a major step toward printed, aligned anisotropic magnets via additive manufacturing processes.

The Energy Innovation Hub manufactured hybrid nylon bonded neodymium-iron-boron and samarium-iron-nitrogen magnets using the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

micrographs of magnetic material
Images a) and b) show micrographs of additive manufacturing bonded magnet, after printing but before alignment. Figure c) shows a micrograph of the magnet after alignment, and Figure d) shows X-ray diffraction patterns comparing as-printed and post-aligned magnet samples. 

“The application of additive manufacturing to magnet production is relatively new, and there are challenges to overcome between the nature of the process and the end properties of the product,” said Ikenna Nlebedim, a scientist at the CMI.

A post-printing alignment process with applied electromagnetic fields and heat allows the researchers to tune the magnetic properties of the magnet without deforming its printed shape.

“For 3D printed anisotropic bonded magnets, a one-step print and align process is the ultimate goal but still needs work to be successful,” said Nlebedim. “We continue to pursue that goal.”

By applying magnetic alignment, the researchers were able to improve magnetic performance of the already dysprosium-free composite bonded magnet without using more critical materials. “This means more economical use of expensive and critical rare earth materials,” said Nlebedim.

The research is discussed in the paper, “Additive Manufacturing of anisotropic hybrid NdFeB-SmFeN nylon composite bonded magnets,” co-authored by Kinjal Ghandha, Ling Li, I.C. Nlebedim, Brian K. Post, Vlastimil Kunc, Brian C. Sales, James Bell, and M. Parans Paranthaman; and published in the Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials.

The Critical Materials Institute is a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and supported by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, which supports early-stage research to advance innovation in U.S. manufacturing and promote American economic growth and energy security. CMI seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean energy technologies.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

Ames Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

Chris Haase, Critical Materials Institute Director, 515-296-4500
Laura Millsaps, Ames Laboratory Communications, 515-294-3474