New 3D Printing Method to Utilize Corrosion


Engineers from Binghamton University in New York have received a grant to investigate the potential of building nanotubes into additively manufactured metals.

According to the university, an engineer’s biggest enemy can be oxidation when designing a mechanical system that uses metal. Additively manufactured metals used in aerospace, marine and automotive design are also more susceptible to failure in a corrosive environment.

Additionally, the 3D printing process reportedly causes increased porousness when compared to conventionally manufactured metal.

However, the researchers at the university’s Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science then wondered if there was a way to make metals stronger through oxidation.

About the Research

Professor Changhong Ke in the Department of Mechanical Engineering recently received a $150,000 grant through the National Science Foundation’s Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) program, which supports untested but potentially transformative research ideas or approaches.

Ke will reportedly investigate the potential of building nanotubes into additively manufactured aluminum. He believes that microscopic structures made of boron nitride would make the material self-strengthening under corrosive conditions like moisture and seawater.

“You can’t avoid oxidation, so we are trying to take advantage of it by turning it into a new, reinforcing mechanism to make the material stronger,” Ke said. “That would be something really amazing.

“People could try to design the materials to include these sorts of porosities or even purposely introducing structures that can be more easily oxidized because it becomes something beneficial instead of harmful to the material itself.”

The nanotubes threaded throughout the metal are reportedly a few nanometers thick and a few to hundreds of microns long.

To see how the oxidation changes the way that nanotubes bind to metal—a core issue in the self-strengthening mechanism, Ke and his team in the Nanomechanics Laboratory will use a force sensor to pull individual nanotubes out of the oxidized metal inside a high-resolution scanning electron microscope, which allows them to watch what is happening in real-time.

“We designed this as a sandwich structure,” he said. “It’s like a hot dog, with the nanotube as the meat and the metal as the bread.”

Researchers are also planning to test the material on a macro scale and look at load transfer to learn more about how the oxidation affects the stiffness, strength and toughness of the nanotube-reinforced metal.

The university will also collaborate with the University of Illinois to confirm Ke’s experimental findings through computational modeling.

“We’re hoping this will provide a new perspective to the scientific community about how we view metal oxidation in terms of future material design,” Ke said.

“That could change the research landscape for these metal materials, particularly for 3D printed metal. It has so many promising applications in different areas, and it even could revitalize U.S. manufacturing competitiveness.”


Tagged categories: 3D printing; 3D Printing; Additives; Asia Pacific; Colleges and Universities; Corrosion; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Grants; Latin America; Metals; National Science Foundation; North America; Program/Project Management; Research and development; Technology; Z-Continents

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.