NASA’s GRX-810 alloy is 1,000 times durable and twice as strong as the current alloys NASA can 3D print.
NASA has invented a new superalloy that may change the way we build airplanes and spaceships. Current state-of-the-art 3D-printed metal parts can sustain up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit before melting, limiting their use in critical applications that involve extreme operating conditions.
But according to NASA, its new wonder material is “twice as strong, over 1,000 times more durable, and twice as resistant to oxidation” than current solutions. These features, according to NASA’s Glenn Research Center researcher Dr. Tim Smith, will allow the aerospace industry to use additive manufacturing technology where it was impossible to do so before.
Smith says NASA initially plans to use the material, currently called GRX-810, in printing “injectors, nozzles, combustor domes,” and any airplane and spaceship parts that need to be able to endure extreme heat without failing. The new alloy will bring many advantages that weren’t previously available to the aerospace industry through 3D printing.
Its ability to withstand high temperatures will allow designers to print lighter parts and operate those parts at higher (more efficient) engine temperatures. This will result in lighter spaceships, which could lead to more payload and higher speeds, dramatically increasing the abilities of airplanes and rockets.
Right now, he says, printed parts are limited a few inches in size due to the specific additive laser machine used to 3D print GRX-810. But they are changing the 3D printing process to a new technique that uses higher direct energy deposition in a much larger enclosure. “If successful, we can start producing parts in orders of feet instead of inches,” Smith says.
Smith is the lead author of a peer-reviewed paper published in Nature that details the research, along with his co-inventor Christopher Kanzos and a team at Ohio State University. He believes that “this superalloy has the potential to dramatically improve the strength and toughness of components and parts used in aviation and space exploration.”
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