Radical New Use For 3D Printing

Innovation November 28, 2016

As you probably know, 3D Printing technology is becoming more widespread in the number of applications in which it can be utilized. The latest such application is in the field of manufacture of permanent magnets. For the record, permanent magnets are key components of quite a number of home and commercial products.

With that in mind, it is important to understand the difficulties experienced with the standard manufacturing techniques for permanent magnets. You see, while it is true that the design and manufacture a strong permanent magnet is a relatively straightforward procedure, the difficulty arises when it becomes necessary to construct a permanent magnet with a precisely shaped magnetic field. At least until now. That is where modern 3D Printing technology can make the difference.

This innovative application of 3D printing techniques was discovered by researchers at the Vienna University of Technology. There researchers came up with a technique that makes use of specially produced filaments of a magnetic microganulate. Now understand that this microganulate material retains its shape and consistency by use of a polymer binding material. During the 3D printing process, the printer itself heats the microganulate material and applies it directly point by point with the 3D printer nozzles. Once the 3D printing process is complete, the end product is a material that is no less than 90% magnetic material and 10% plastic.

That being said, pay attention to the fact that there is one last step in this permanent magnet manufacturing process. That step is to take the newly formed end product from the 3D printer and exposing it to a strong external magnetic field. This last step locks in the desired magnetic field and transforms the material into a permanent magnet. Best of all, this new permanent magnet has the specified magnetic field strength and field direction locked into place.

Speaking on this exciting new 3D printing application, Dieter Suss had this to say: “This method allows us to process various magnetic materials, such as the exceptionally strong neodymium iron boron magnets. Magnet designs created using a computer can now be quickly and precisely implemented—at a size ranging from just a few centimeters through to decimeters with an accuracy of well under a single millimeter”.

You can readily understand how this new application of 3D printing will transform the manufacture of permanent magnets. At the same time, it is safe to say that by allowing the precision design and manufacture of permanent magnets in a much more economical manner, there are as yet unimagined applications of precisely engineered permanent magnets.

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