The association registered its first alloy designed for 3D printing applications this week—something so new that it had to create a new type of designation for it.
With a wave of interest in 3D printing potentially opening up new lines of business for metal suppliers, the Aluminum Association is helping to burnish the standards for printing materials.
This week, the association launched a new material designation system for 3D printing, creating a new “purple sheet” for chemical designations related to aluminum powders used in the 3D printing process. According to a news release, it’s the association’s first new material registration record in nearly two decades—a record style that relies on various color sheets to help set standards for different types of metal use.
It’s something that Heidi Brock, the association’s president and CEO, says helps to bolster the industry’s work in new types of metals and the uptake of new applications.
“For decades, the Aluminum Association’s alloy and temper designation system has helped companies to gain wider acceptance in commercial applications—promoting the material’s use in the marketplace,” Brock said in the release. “The purple sheets are the next chapter in that story as we look toward a future of aluminum in additive manufacturing and 3D printing.”
The first company to receive such a designation is HRL Laboratories, LLC, which plans to commercialize a new kind of high-strength aluminum intended for additive manufacturing purposes. After the additive was created, HRL Lead Scientist Hunter Martin reached out to the association to register the invention, which led to its novel status.
“When I first contacted the Aluminum Association about registering our alloy, they did not have a way to register alloys printed from powders, so they decided to create a new system for registration of additively manufactured materials—a first in the materials space,” Martin said in a news release.
Martin compared the registration record to a DNA signature that will tie the company to the invention.
“Essentially, this will connect us to this particular alloy composition forever,” he added.
While the material is the first alloy for 3D printing to earn such a designation, it’s one of many hundreds of alloys registered by the association since 1954. When its standard-setting efforts began 65 years ago, it had 75 alloys registered. Now, there are more than 500.