A novel hybrid fabrication process combining features of additive manufacturing and metal injection molding (MIM) has been conceived and shown to be low cost yet still capable of making highly complex, fully 3D objects for structural metals as titanium and nickel-base superalloys. The technology uses a modification to the conventional MIM process that provides substantial benefits, including the ability to make low to medium volume parts affordably without the need for design compromises or expensive hard tooling, with a reduction in the machining, multiple setups, and labor hours typically associated with producing such complex parts. The 3D-MIM process offers an intriguing fabrication method for making components of bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) that are ideal for use in extreme temperature deep space environments in small spacecraft. Not only is this fabrication approach relatively inexpensive, its technique uses sintering to bond the metal at temperatures lower than the melting point, a significant benefit when it comes to retaining the amorphous properties of BMGs.
Potential NASA Applications are heater-less planetary and strain-wave gearbox configurations for extreme cold environments (icy planets) where bulk metallic glass gears could offer a unique material solution. Other potential NASA applications are foam BMGs as a material for building future spacecraft for long-term space flight, as well as castable mirrors and mirror assemblies. The latter includes optics for spacecraft and satellites, mirror components for telescopes, mirrors for lasers, sensing and solar energy collection.
Potential Non-NASA applications are high efficiency transformers at line frequency and some higher frequency transformers, electronic article surveillance (e.g., theft control passive ID tags), enclosures and cases for electronics, warhead penetrators for munitions, biomedical implants, and sporting goods.