A team of researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory under Department of Energy have effectively demonstrated that permanent magnets fabricated using BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) machines outshine counterparts produced via traditional techniques. The BAAM machine produced permanent magnets exhibited more well-defined micro-structural, mechanical, and magnetic qualities. Magnets produced on the basis of prototypes designed using additive manufacturing process, better known as 3D printing, also retains crucial materials that are usually lost when conventional production methods are used.
Permanent magnets modeled on 3D printing technology more versatile than conventional ones
Scientists attached to Oak Ridge National Laboratory were successful in crafting isotropic permanent magnets that contained iron, boron, and neodymium (NdFeB) and had a texture almost resembling a net. But prior to fabricating the actual magnets, they formulated prototypes with a BAAM machine. The entire modus-operandi of the experimental production process which was issued in Scientific Reports clearly exhibited that the magnet possessed mechanical, magnetic, and micro-structural characteristics or attributes which were more versatile compared to ones that were fabricated by employing long-established processes.
Interestingly enough, the permanent magnets manufactured through the time-honored techniques had the same ingredients-Neodymium, iron, and boron. The ball for the fabrication system that made the most of the 3D printing technology was set rolling by melting, compounding and forcing out layers of composite pellets or shots in desired shapes and sizes. The pellets were made by blending NdFeB powder and Nylon-12 polyamide in a ratio of 65:35.
Parans Paranthaman, who was heading the research team, was strongly of the opinion that the technology behind additive manufacturing was extremely instrumental in helping to recapture critical materials that would’ve been otherwise lost if conventional processes were applied. The wastage of materials is nearly zero when a 3D printer is used for making permanent magnet prototypes. The research project spearheaded by Paranthaman was sponsored and backed by Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute.
A sophisticated manufacturing process
It is extremely crucial that a sophisticated manufacturing procedure is used that aids in the conservation of materials with respect to the production of permanent magnets where the components happen to be rare earth elements including Neodymium, Dysprosium, Cerium, Europium, Promethium, Yttrium, and Thulium. Most of the rare earth metals used for making permanent metals are mined and sourced from outside the US. Basically, there are two types of permanent magnets, those made from Neodymium and the ones made from a blend of cobalt and samarium.
Rare earth magnets have an extremely robust magnetic field, stronger than ‘alnico’ or ‘ferrite’ magnets and find applications in hard disk drives, headphones, wind turbine generators, MRI gadgets, and traction motors. The three-dimension printing technique facilitates in fashioning magnets having the complex form factor and does away with the need to use tools, thereby rendering the procedure more economical.
Conventional production processes may not be able to cope with the present day specifications sent in by clients placing orders for permanent magnets. Developing a model for every design using traditional approach will make it prohibitively expensive. It would that additive manufacturing will not only make it easier to process different prototypes at a faster pace but also render less burden on the manufacturer financially.