Fraunhofer ILT Heads Up AddSteel: Development of New Materials for the Steel Industry through Additive Manufacturing

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The North Rhine-Westphalia Leitmarkt project AddSteel has just been announced, targeting digitalization of the steel industry. This project launch marks the beginning of a three-year project headed up by SMS group GmbH, a plant engineering company headquartered in Mönchengladbach.

The AddSteel project team has already met with success in one of their initial projects, developing the first case-hardening and heat-treatable steel powders designed specifically for laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) applications. Now, a main focus of AddSteel will be to qualify developed materials for metallic LPBF processes at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen.

One impetus behind this project is declining sales for steelmakers in Germany—specifically in North Rhine-Westphalia. With progressive materials and technology, steelmakers will have the opportunity for a new advantage in the economy overall; however, this means meeting a wide range of demands for customers who may be involved in complex endeavors, requiring complex products that are lightweight, can be made more efficiently, and may be more affordable too (a good example would be crash-resistant parts for cars).

Metallic 3D printing allows users to take manufacturing to the next level, creating high-performance components with better functionality—and increased sustainability for the steel industry. The AddSteel project ties in with the work scientists have been involved in at Fraunhofer ILT for the past few years, beginning with a prototyping method for LPBF which has now evolved into a comprehensive industrial process for fabrication of complex geometries in low batch volume. Using digital data also helps to improve part performance.

In the NRW Leitmarkt project AddSteel, powders for metallic 3D printing using the LPBF process are produced from special, adapted alloys.

Currently, LPBF is being used in applications like aerospace and medicine to make complex parts, but there are still limitations in producing case-hardening and heat-treatable steel, with a lack of qualified, suitable materials. Development of new steel materials is a serious undertaking, however, as it requires more than just refinement of technique and hardware. Researchers must possess all the correct elements in just the right combination, along with the help and resourcefulness of metallurgists.

“The AddSteel project partners have chosen to develop alloys in an iterative process, combined with systematic adjustments to the LPBF process and equipment,” states the Fraunhofer ILT team in their latest press release. “This will be followed by the construction of technology demonstrators for fabricating new components and spare parts that will be used to test and validate performance and cost-efficiency.”

AddSteel was created to solve these issues, with support from North Rhine-Westphalia’s Leitmarkt funding program, and the following partners:

  • SMS group GmbH (Mönchengladbach)
  • Deutsche Edelstahlwerke Specialty Steel GmbH & Co. KG (Krefeld)
  • Aconity GmbH (Herzogenrath)
  • Fraunhofer ILT (Aachen)

“A plant has already been built at SMS group that can nozzle suitable metal powders,” reports Andreas Vogelpoth, a member of the Laser Powder Bed Fusion Group and head of the AddSteel project at Fraunhofer ILT. “Deutsche Edelstahlwerke Specialty Steel is now supplying the new alloys that Fraunhofer ILT will soon be testing on its LPBF system, after the alloys have been converted into powder form.”

Find out more about the project at formnext 2019 in Frankfurt, Germany, from November 19th – 22nd, at the Fraunhofer joint booth D51 in Hall 11.

Fraunhofer ILT is a huge contributor to the realm of additive manufacturing processes, bringing forth so many other projects too—from sensor technology, to new techniques in the medical field, better precision and speed in 3D printers, lasers, and far more. What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

For new, tailor-made steels, the AddSteel project partners combine the elements cobalt, carbon, molybdenum, vanadium and tungsten, among others, and vary the corresponding alloy constituents.

[Source / Images:  Fraunhofer ILT]

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