Posted on October 06, 2011 by Minerals Make Life
As the building blocks of innovation and the lifeblood of manufacturing, minerals have long been manipulated into high-tech products and heavy equipment. But according to Reuters, a few leading U.S. manufacturers are using minerals in a new way, designing and producing items previously deemed “unmanufacturable,” through additive manufacturing, also known as “3-D printing.”
“It works by laying down a thin layer of powdered metal—cobalt chrome in this case—and running a beam of computer-controlled laser light over it, which heats the powder enough to weld it into the shape of the first layer of the nozzle. When that layer cools, more powder is laid down, the laser makes another pass and slowly builds the shape up to its full size.” – Reuters
The process that transforms mineral dust into components of jet engines and ultrasounds is cutting thousands of dollars in costs for manufacturers. Welding 15 to 20 small parts is now a two- or three-step procedure and the process saves raw materials by eliminating the need to chip away metal that will not be used in the final product.
Additive manufacturing is further proof that minerals hold the keys the technologies that will propel our economy, enable America to compete globally and improve the quality of our lives.