Science 2 min read

How 3D Printed Magnets Outperform Conventional Counterparts

The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory discovered that a 3D printed magnet outperforms one produced by conventional methods.

Monkey Business Images | Shutterstock.com

Monkey Business Images | Shutterstock.com

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has discovered that 3D printed magnets outperform those produced using conventional methods. Since the additive manufacturing process conserves more of the required materials, 3D printing magnets could also prove to be more efficient and cost-effective.

Using conventional bonded magnet manufacturing techniques, as much as 50 percent in material waste may result.

Additive manufacturing techniques, however, would be able to reuptake those waste materials and reuse them in the manufacturing process. The result is a more efficient, circular process with no waste.

“Using the same amount of materials as conventional methods, it is now possible to manufacture more bonded magnets via 3D printing.”

While unit production cost of a 3D printed magnet might be higher, the zero waste process would more than compensate by tremendously cutting down on the costs of materials and waste management.

The 3D Printed Magnet

According to a team of scientists working at the ORNL, 3D printed magnets are stronger than bonded magnets made using conventional techniques. Bonded magnets are made by combining a hard magnetic powder with a non-magnetic powder, or rubber binder.

According to results published in Scientific Reports, researchers produced isotropic, near-net-shape, neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) bonded magnets using a 3D printer known as the Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine (BAAM).

The 3D printed magnet had better magnetic, mechanical, and microstructural properties. What’s more, the production method itself reduced waste by 30 to 50 percent.

What’s more, the production method itself reduced waste by 30 to 50 percent. This means that in using the same quantity of materials as before, it is now possible to create more bonded magnets via 3D printing than with conventional methods.

Since manufacturing certain types of magnets requires rare earth minerals, a more efficient process that conserves these rare materials is crucial.

An Attractive Future

Permanent magnets are used in many applications such as sensors, motors, actuators, acoustic transducers, personal computing devices, and home appliances. The NdFeB magnet is partially made from neodymium – a material found in sufficient quantities for commercial use only in very few places on the planet, including the Congo and in China.

Because ALM is a highly efficient circular process, large-scale adoption of 3D printing magnets would reduce both material scarcity and costs associated with magnet production.

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