DOD Funding Development of Cobalt-Free Hardmetal Additive Manufacturing Process

The award will fund development of an Additive Manufacturing process capable of manufacturing Cobalt-free hardmetals into complex, net or near-net shaped parts without tooling.

Desktop Metal
Production System 2
Desktop Metal

Desktop Metal, a provider of mass production and turnkey additive manufacturing solutions, announces it has been awarded Phase I of a 3-year $2.45 million dollar project from Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a sophisticated Additive Manufacturing (AM) process capable of mass producing Cobalt-free (Co-free) hardmetals, developed by the U.S. Army. The company’s Production System with Single Pass Jetting (SPJ), a proprietary AM technology developed by Desktop Metal, will mass manufacture complex shaped Co-free hardmetal parts without tooling and is expected to lead to the development of a dual use technology with numerous applications in DoD as well as in the civilian sector. 

This new process has the potential to change the landscape of the carbide hardmetals market which is projected to grow to $24 billion by 2024(1) and is used in dual use applications including cutting tools, abrasion and chemical resistant nozzles, parts for the oil and gas sector, parts for the chemical and textile industry, tools used in agriculture and mining, steel industry, consumer goods and sporting goods, parts for off-road transportation, aerospace and defense sector, construction, and in tools and dies for chipless materials forming. 

The project is issued to Desktop Metal by the U.S. Army Contracting Command – Aberdeen, Research Triangle Park, on behalf of U.S. Army Research Laboratory to the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) Advanced Manufacturing, Materials & Processes (AMMP) Consortium. 

Successful investigations by the U.S. Army in developing a novel iron-based nano material as the matrix in WC-based hardmetals, replacing Cobalt, has resulted in the development of a patented, novel Co-free WC-(Fe-Ni-Zr)-based hardmetals. In tandem with the creation of this promising new material for commercial and DoD applications, the ARL has been in search of a cost-effective, high volume process capable of manufacturing the new Co-free hardmetals into complex, net or near-net shaped parts without the use of any tooling. 

Among the goals and requirements of the three-year project include:

  • Development of a feedstock and binder system for novel cobalt-free hardmetal;
  • Using the Desktop Metal SPJ process to print a sufficient quantity of components of at least 200,000 parts in one day from a single machine; and 
  • Delivery of a cost analysis for scaling up its advanced SPJ binder jet manufacturing technique to successfully manufacture at least 500,000 prototype pieces. 

“The novel Co-free hardmetal grade is expected to yield a high strength, high toughness, high hardness, and high wear resistance material,” says Dr. Nicholas Ku, Materials Engineer, CCDC Army Research Laboratory. “We believe combining this novel material with Desktop Metal’s Single Pass Jetting technology will have major applications not only in the defense sector but also in the commercial sector. Further, we believe this combined method will dramatically improve sustainability, reduce the use of a conflict mineral and provide an environmentally-friendly process to mass produce parts with superior properties.” 

Desktop Metal Production System

Created by leading inventors of binder jetting and single-pass inkjet technology, the Desktop Metal Production System is designed to be the fastest way to 3D print metal parts at-scale. The Production System leverages patent-pending SPJ technology to achieve print speeds up to 100 times those of legacy powder bed fusion additive manufacturing technologies and deliver up to hundreds of thousands or even millions of parts per year at costs competitive with conventional manufacturing. Whereas conventional binder jetting uses multiple carriages and passes over a build box to complete the steps required to print each layer, bidirectional SPJ on the Production System consolidates these steps into the motion of a single print carriage, dramatically reducing print time and removing wasted motions during printing to increase mechanical efficiency. 

Dr. Animesh Bose, Vice President of Special Projects for Desktop Metal, and a Fellow of ASM International and APMI International, will serve as principal investigator of the 3-year project. With more than 40 years of experience in the processing of particulate materials, he is the author of over 125 publications in the area of P/M processing of advanced materials, authored and co-authored four books, and inventor or co-inventor of over 12 patents. 

“The success in this project will not only provide the hardmetal community with their eagerly desired Co-free hardmetal solution, but also result in the development of a tool-free processing technique capable of fabricating this class of materials into extremely complex shaped parts at speeds that can rival most other high-volume manufacturing techniques, opening up new horizons in the area of hardmetals and its applications,” says Dr. Bose. 

“This effort exemplifies the ability of NCMS and AMMP to link cutting edge technologies of non-traditional defense contractors with government agencies to meet existing needs and requirements,” says NCMS’ CEO Lisa Strama. “We look forward to the lasting impact this initiative will have within AMMP, the Army, and the broader community driving innovative Co-free hardmetal solutions across the services and industry at large.” 

(1) Source: Global Market Insights (