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August 5, 2013

Manufacturers team up with nuclear laboratory to explore 3D metal printing technologies

Sigma Labs and Los Alamos National Laboratory hope to find improved metal printing methods.

By Joe Curtis

A manufacturing firm has joined forces with a US laboratory that performs the research behind nuclear weapons to identify new technologies for the 3D printing of metals.

Sigma Labs has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Los Alamos National Laboratory to find new ways of 3D printing metal which are not already under exclusive license.

The laboratory was one of the first to research 3D printing in the 1990s and Sigma hopes to use scientists’ skills to identify improved manufacturing processes.

Mark Cola, president and CEO of Sigma Labs, added: "We are hopeful that this MOU will lead to an agreement with Los Alamos for the commercialisation of specific technologies relating to metal 3D printing .

"Specifically, we are targeting technologies that focus on materials, sensors, and laser systems that could have impact on the further development of 3D printing of metals.

There have already been significant forays into 3D metal printing. Scientists at North Carolina State University create dliquid metal structures using a 3D printer last month. The researchers used an alloy of two metals, liquid at room temperature but which form a ‘skin’ when exposed to air. When printed, the material can stretch without losing its firm skin.

Shapeways, a Dutch 3D printing startup, can print in metals including silver, using a method which deposits a powder metal matrix containing binders, which, once they have held the subsequent layer in place, are melted away.

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The final structure is then held together by being baked in an oven.

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