Processing of Refractory Metals by Selective Laser Melting

Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is a leading Additive Manufacturing technology that is used for high value low volume manufacturing of specialist parts. The alloys currently processed are those required by the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors and the process parameters have been specifically developed for these applications. 
There are currently no commercially available SLM systems able to process refractory metals reliably. Refractory metals have high strength, are able to function at high temperature and have excellent corrosion resistance making them applicable to high strength medical devices, rocket nozzles and support hardware in the nuclear industry, while their ability to absorb radiation is useful in medical imaging devices.

It is envisaged that the SLM processing of refractory metals would extend the use of these materials, as SLM will ease processing difficulties, significantly reduce costs and improve affordability. It will also allow these specialist alloys to be used in novel ways, either with the use of cellular structures that would deliver high temperature refractory metal properties whilst reducing overall mass or by creating structures that cannot be made either by sintering or machining. The high melting points of refractory materials has driven manufacture towards sintered powder methods combined with hot Isostatic pressing, providing a readily available supply of powder suitable for SLM. It is likely that there are a number of challenges associated with refractory metals, including the high temperatures and strengths at temperature, but if achieved this work would give UK industry an advantage in this high value manufacturing sector.

This two year project will develop processing parameters for a minimum of three Refractory metals, identify any barriers that may limit the effectiveness of SLM processing and evaluate the performance. An initial study will also be conducted that will evaluate the impact of cellular refractory metal structures for industrial applications.

Contact Details: 

For more information on this project please contact Dr Pete Fox,