A team of researchers working at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently showcased that the permanent magnets created by additive manufacturing are capable of outperforming the bonded magnets that are produced through conventional techniques. This team fabricated a near-net-shape, isotropic, neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) bonded magnets at the DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility located at ORNL. The equipment used for this purpose was the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine. The resulting product is one with better or compatible magnetic, microstructural, and mechanical properties that proved to be a step ahead of bonded magnets that are built using traditional methods.
The additive manufacturing process, initially, started with composite pellets with 65 volume percent of NdFeB powder along with 35 percent polyamide generated by Magnet Applications Inc. These pellets were then melted, crushed, and lastly extruded layer-by-layer into required forms by BAAM. The usual sintered magnet manufacturing often results in wastage of 30-50 percent of materials, the additive manufacturing process ensures zero wastage. The fact was stated by the principal researcher and team leader at ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division, Parans Paranthaman.
It is mandatory to use a process that helps in material conservation when you are producing permanent magnets from neodymium or any other rare earth element. The NdFeB magnets have proved to be one of the most powerful ones on this planet and are currently being used in everything right from computer hard drives to clean energy technologies to wind turbines, electric vehicles, and so forth. The printing process helps not only in conservation of materials but also produces complicated shapes. These need no tooling and are quicker as compared to regular manufacturing processes. Ling LI, the co-author of this paper and an ORNL researcher adds, “Manufacturing is changing rapidly, and a customer may need 50 different designs for the magnets they want to use.” The regular injection molding will include manufacturing of new mold along with tooling for every single one adding to expenses. The additive manufacturing, on the other hand, can be created easily and very simply with computer assisted designs.
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