Additive manufacturing has been growing in capabilities and effectiveness for more than a decade, but it has been only recently that the technology has matured enough to breakthrough into many industries. While polymer resins and plastics were forerunners for additive manufacturing (or 3D printing), the aerospace industry played a significant role in the development of metal printing. PWR has taken advantage of the early development of both resin and metal printing while working with specific partners to adapt the technology to thermal management applications. PWR focuses on plastic and metal additive processes and materials that support our business model of engineering the unfair advantage and supplying customers with the highest quality and shortest lead time.
PWR is leading the thermal management industry with specific technology developments to apply metal additive manufacturing to improve the performance and manufacturing of our products. The laser powder bed fusion process of aluminium forms the basis of the metal additive manufacturing process at PWR. As was recently announced, PWR has chosen VELO3D as a partner to develop printing of next-generation, high-performance heat exchangers and thermal management products. The unique VELO3D printing process allows for support-free or fully floating parts which reduces labor and lead time. The support free nature of the printing can be carried down to angles as low as 10o which contributes to superior surface finishes and low porosity. For example, walls < 0.3mm can be printed with no porosity while structures < 0.2mm are possible. For the customer, this means thinner, more complex heat exchanger designs with unmatched performance. PWR anticipates the use of metal additive manufacturing in custom automotive, military, aerospace and industrial products.
PWR has in-house capability for printing polymer resins using a Stereolithography Apparatus (SLA) printer powered by Digital Light Projector (DLP). This type of layer-by-layer additive manufacturing is capable of fabricating detailed parts due to the use of light to cross-link (or join) the photo-reactive polymer resins. PWR is using the SLA process primarily to support the fabrication of parts using the PerForm resin by Somos. This material is building a reputation in manufacturing and the automotive industry due to its high strength and high temperature resistance. Specifically, the PerForm material can be printed with accuracy of 0.08-0.10mm while having tensile strengths up to 80 MPa. The polymer resin exhibits some of the highest temperature compatibility with heat deflection temperature (HDT) as high as 268oC. These materials properties allow PWR to take advantage of PerForm for fast tooling as well as integration with metal parts in heat exchangers to save weight, speed lead time and improve shock resistance.
PWR Additive Manufacturing has recently undertaken a significant material transition, shifting from F357 to CP1 for all aluminium printing. This change is a result of a successful collaboration project involving Constellium, PWR, and Velo3D. The new material, Aheadd CP1, is an aluminium alloy specifically designed for Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) and holds several advantages over F357.
Aheadd CP1 was developed by Constellium, a global manufacturer known for producing aluminium rolled products, extruded products, and structural parts. Unlike F357, which was originally developed for casting and later adopted for LPBF, CP1 has been specifically tailored for LPBF applications. It offers increased thermal conductivity benefits, making it particularly suitable for the additive manufacturing of heat exchangers.
The advantages of Aheadd CP1 for LPBF processing are noteworthy, such as the ability to print with both 50um and 100um layer thickness, that provides flexibility in part resolution and print productivity.
CP1 also has a simplified heat treatment process, meaning there is no need for solution treatment, or quenching, and only needs to be aged at 400°C for 4 hours to produce mechanical properties comparable to superior to T6 F357.
The absence of magnesium and silicone mean CP1 can be welded and brazed, which allows us to combine the capabilities for complex geometries provided by additive manufacturing with our high performing cooling solutions manufactured by traditional methods.
Many aerospace applications require chemical processing and surface treatment, and due to the alloy composition of CP1 we can apply both Type I and Type II anodising treatments, as well as chemical conversion to meet spec MIL-DTL-5541 Type 2 Class 1A.
Additionally, Aheadd CP1 has gained approval from the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) for use in Formula One from 2024. PWR’s in-house Velo3D Sapphire and E-Plus machines are some of the very few machines available with the capability to print this advanced material.
To learn more about additive manufacturing and PWR, please contact our engineering team to discuss your application.