Dallas-based Momentum Technologies hasnon-exclusively licensed Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s 3D printed magnettechnology and plans to commercialize the first 3D printed magnet made fromrecycled materials. ORNL has demonstrated that 3D-printed magnets canoutperform those created by traditional methods and could be used in electricvehicles, wind turbines and high-speed rail. Momentum holds two other ORNLtechnology licenses related to the recovery of rare earth minerals and magnetsfrom electronic waste.
“Bringingtogether these technologies through the Department of Energy’s CriticalMaterials Institute and ORNL allows us to create a sustainable domestic supplyof low-cost magnets made from recycled materials recovered from hard diskdrives,” said Momentum’s CEO Preston Bryant.
Scientists fabricated isotropic, near-net-shape,neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) bonded magnets at DOE’s ManufacturingDemonstration Facility at ORNL using the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM)machine. The result, published in Scientific Reports, was a product with comparable orbetter magnetic, mechanical, and microstructural properties than bonded magnetsmade using traditional injection molding with the same composition.
The additivemanufacturing process began with composite pellets consisting of 65 volumepercent isotropic NdFeB powder and 35 percent polyamide (Nylon-12) manufacturedby Magnet Applications, Inc. The pellets were melted, compounded, and extrudedlayer-by-layer by BAAM into desired forms.
While conventionalsintered magnet manufacturing may result in material waste of as much as 30 to50 percent, additive manufacturing will simply capture and reuse thosematerials with nearly zero waste, said Parans Paranthaman, principalinvestigator and a group leader in ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division. Theproject was funded by DOE’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI).
Using a process thatconserves material is especially important in the manufacture of permanentmagnets made with neodymium, dysprosium—rare earth elements that are mined andseparated outside the United States. NdFeB magnets are the most powerful onearth, and used in everything from computer hard drives and head phones toclean energy technologies such as electric vehicles and wind turbines.
The printing process notonly conserves materials but also produces complex shapes, requires no toolingand is faster than traditional injection methods, potentially resulting in amuch more economic manufacturing process, Paranthaman said.
“Manufacturingis changing rapidly, and a customer may need 50 different designs for themagnets they want to use,” said ORNL researcher and co-author Ling Li.
Traditional injectionmolding would require the expense of creating a new mold and tooling for each,but with additive manufacturing the forms can be crafted simply and quicklyusing computer-assisted design, she explained.
AlexKing, Director of the Critical Materials Institute, thinks that this researchhas tremendous potential. “The ability to print high-strength magnets incomplex shapes is a game changer for the design of efficient electric motorsand generators,” he said. “It removes many of the restrictions imposed bytoday’s manufacturing methods.”
Future work will explorethe printing of anisotropic, or directional, bonded magnets, which are strongerthan isotropic magnets that have no preferred magnetization direction.Researchers will also examine the effect of binder type, the loading fraction ofmagnetic powder, and processing temperature on the magnetic and mechanicalproperties of printed magnets.
“Thiswork has demonstrated the potential of additive manufacturing to be applied tothe fabrication of a wide range of magnetic materials and assemblies,” saidco-author John Ormerod. “Magnet Applications and many of our customers areexcited to explore the commercial impact of this technology in the nearfuture,” he stated.
Contributing to theproject were Ling Li, Angelica Tirado, Orlando Rios, Brian Post, VlastimilKunc, R. R. Lowden, Edgar Lara-Curzio at ORNL, as well as researchers I. C.Nlebedim and Thomas Lograsso working with CMI at Ames Laboratory. RobertFredette and John Ormerod from Magnet Applications Inc. (MAI) contributed tothe project through an MDF technology collaboration. The DOE’s AdvancedManufacturing Office provides support for ORNL’s Manufacturing DemonstrationFacility, a public-private partnership to engage industry with national labs.