Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) scientists have for the first time 3D printed tungsten components using Electron Beam Melting (EBM).
Tungsten has the highest melting point of all metals (3,422°C). This makes it ideal for high temperature applications such as space rocket nozzles, furnace heating elements and even the fusion reactor.
However, the metal is highly brittle and, hence, difficult to process.
Now thanks to the KIT team’s efforts, tungsten can be made soft and malleable – thus reducing the processing task which is often expensive and time-consuming.
“At the moment, we are working on the additive manufacture of tungsten components by electron beam melting, EBM for short,” says Dr. Steffen Antusch from KIT’s Institute for Applied Materials-Materials Science and Engineering (IAM-WK).
“This metal can be applied in many areas,” adds IAM-WK’s Alexander Klein. “Thanks to its special properties, it is ideally suited for high-temperature applications in energy and light technologies, aerospace industry, and medical engineering.”
EBM is an additive manufacturing method whereby electrons accelerated under vacuum selectively melt metal powder and, in this way, produce a 3D component layer by layer.
According to the KIT team, the big advantage of this method lies in the energy source used – the electron beam.
The beam pre-heats the metal powder and the carrier plate prior to melting, as a result of which deformation and inherent stress are reduced.
Thanks to EBM, one can process materials that easily break at room temperature and can be deformed at high temperature.
Image and content: Markus Breig/KIT