ExOne Awarded Contract to Develop High-Strength Steel for US Air Force

Parts additively manufactured with AF-9628 are about 20% stronger than conventional AM alloys.

Parts additively manufactured with AF-9628 are about 20% stronger than conventional AM alloys.

The ExOne Company was recently awarded a contract to develop binder jet manufacturing processes for a steel alloy for the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). 

Awarded by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) on Sept. 1, the contract aims to develop and qualify AF-9628, a high-strength steel developed by the Air Force, for binder jet 3D printing. 

AF-9628 is currently manufactured with both traditional and additive methods, such as laser powder bed fusion. Parts additively manufactured with AF-9628 are about 20% stronger than conventional AM alloys, in terms of ultimate tensile strength, the Air Force reports. However, binder jet 3D printing provides an opportunity to additively manufacture parts with this alloy at a lower cost. 

Binder jet 3D printing transforms powdered materials—metal, sand or ceramic—into dense and functional precision parts at high speeds. An industrial printhead selectively deposits a binder into a bed of powder particles creating a solid part one thin layer at a time. The technology is viewed as a desirable and sustainable production method, largely because of its high speed, relatively low cost and material flexibility. ExOne has qualified more than 20 materials for its binder jetting process.

“We are looking forward to our collaboration with ExOne to develop binder jet additive manufacturing processes for AF-9628 alloy and realize a potential manufacturing cost savings for the Air Force,” says Jason Thomas, project engineer at NCDMM.

Rick Lucas, ExOne CTO and VP, New Markets, adds, “We are proud to partner with NCDMM and the Air Force on this exciting project. We look forward to applying our decades of binder jetting experience to this significant 3D printing and defense research.”

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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