UTEP Awarded $110K to Test the Resilience of Thermal Tested Aluminums for US Airforce
UC Staff | February 20, 2020
The W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation at The University of Texas at El Paso was awarded a $110,00 project from the Air Force to investigate the effects of thermal treatments and service temperatures upon long-term performance of powder bed additively manufactured parts.
Leading the research is Francisco Medina, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Medina is a world-renowned expert in the area of Additive Manufacturing (AM) and powder bed fusion technology; also known as Metal 3D Printing. He has over twenty years of experience in AM and has educated over one thousand scientists and engineers in the areas of metals AM technology, processes, and advanced applications.
Aluminum alloys have high strength-to-weight ratios, excellent thermal properties, and low material costs. These properties pair well with new laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF) technology, which allows parts to be produced with novel geometries not possible with conventional manufacturing techniques. The L-PBF technology can provide advantages for manufacturing of aluminum alloys.
During testing, over 500 aluminum sample cylinders are printed in an EOS M 290 3D printer to go through a thermal aging process that takes place in an oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. After they are heat treated with different thermal processes, they will be tested with a MTS system to evaluate their fatigue and tensile strength. Findings will be given to the Air Force.
“We are going to be testing AM materials that the Air Force is looking to produce for some of their planes and ground vehicles,” Medina said. “We will be obtaining a better understanding of what happens to these materials, their chemistries, and structures over time. Does the microstructure or mechanical strength change? Does it get weaker? Is it prone to cracking after functioning for a thousand hours? Those are some of the questions we are going to answer.”
“If something operates at an elevated temperature for a long period of time, material phases may start to change and precipitates may form, weakening the material and its mechanical properties,” Medina said. “There are a lot of uncertainties.”
“Students will have access to high tech equipment that will help them develop more material oriented, cutting-edge applications for AM,” Medina said. “They are looking at next generation materials that will be used for Department of Defense applications.”