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Desktop Metal and Uniformity Labs Make 6061 Aluminum for AM

Desktop Metal and Uniformity Labs have created a sinterable 6061 aluminum powder for binder jetting AM production.

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A stock photo of 3D-printed metal

Desktop Metal Inc. and Uniformity Labs have developed a powder that enables aluminum sintering for binder jetting additive manufacturing (AM) technology. This new powder is the result of a multi-year collaboration between the companies to develop a low-cost, raw material yielding fully dense, sinterable 6061 aluminum with greater than 10% elongation and improved yield strength and ultimate tensile strength versus wrought 6061 aluminum with comparable heat treatment.

“This breakthrough represents a major milestone in the development of aluminum for binder jetting and a significant step forward for the AM industry, as it is one of the most sought-after materials for use in automotive, aerospace and consumer electronics,” says Ric Fulop, CEO and co-founder of Desktop Metal. “The global aluminum castings market is more than $50 billion per year, and it is ripe for disruption with binder jetting AM solutions.”

“The introduction of lightweight metals to binder jetting opens the door to a wide variety of thermal and structural applications across industries,” says Adam Hopkins, founder and CEO of Uniformity Labs. “This innovation is a key step towards the adoption of mass-produced printed aluminum parts.”

This new powder enables the sintering of unadulterated 6061 aluminum and represents what the companies say is a significant improvement over prior techniques used to sinter aluminum, which required coating powder particles; mixing sintering aids into powder; using binders containing expensive nanoparticles; or adding metals such as lead, tin and magnesium. Critically, the powder also enables compatibility with water-based binders and has a higher minimum ignition energy (MIE) relative to other commercially available 6061 aluminum powders, resulting in an improved safety profile.

Desktop Metal and Uniformity Labs plan to continue working together over the coming year to qualify the powder and scale production for commercial release on the inert, chemically inactive Desktop Metal Production System.

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