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Illinois Tech’s Amir Mostafaei Wins $600,000 AM CAREER Grant

According to Illinois Tech, Amir Mostafaei, an assistant professor of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, has won a five-year, $600,000 CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to continue his research in the development of new powders for additive manufacturing.

“Over the past three years at Illinois Tech, my research team has actively investigated this idea, overcome setbacks, and persistently refined the scientific aspects of our proposed research,” said Amir Mostafaei. “This grant has opened up new horizons in metal additive manufacturing by introducing a new class of raw material for various powder additive manufacturing processes, including laser powder coating fusion, electron beam melting and binder jetting. “

Research objectives include improving powder scattering dynamics through multimodal particles and a hybrid powder spreader, and improving laser-powder interaction and microstructure control. If successful, Mostafaei says the project’s results may expand material options — making production more cost-effective and sustainable in various additive manufacturing processes.

The initial step in powder-based AM processes is powder production, which can be expensive and energy-intensive. The limited availability of metal alloys as raw material powder is a disadvantage compared to conventional manufacturing methods such as casting and forging.

With rapid advances in AM technologies to secure domestic supply chains, there is increasing interest in adopting a wider range of powders. However, the prevailing method of atomization to produce spherical powder is expensive, energy consuming, and introduces entrapped gas bubbles that can affect the quality of the final build. Also, the powder production efficiency is less than 30%.

Mostafaei proposes a method that turns static bar stock into high-quality powder at room temperature while preserving the density, chemistry and structure of the input material. This technology uses wear milling with a reciprocating cutter to achieve a precise particle size distribution with greater than 95% efficiency and to produce pore-free powders of both near-spherical and non-spherical shapes. This new powder production method was developed by Metal Powder Works. Mostafaei has collaborated with John Barnes, CEO and founder of Metal Powder Works, since 2018 when he was a postdoctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon University.

“Additive manufacturing practitioners have traditionally preferred spherical powders for powder-based additive manufacturing to ensure high-density parts due to concerns about poor flow and uniformity with non-spherical powders,” said Mostafaei. “Alternative powder manufacturing methods are attractive to powder manufacturing companies, researchers, and additive manufacturing machine manufacturers because they can reduce costs and emissions, increase raw material availability for metal additive manufacturing, and promote sustainability.”

Mostafaei says his proposed method of using non-spherical powder in AM could reduce costs by 50 percent, allow powder to flow more easily through dispensers, reduce defects in manufactured products and expand material options.

“The innovative use of non-spherical powder combined with a non-contact powder dispenser has the potential to revolutionize the additive manufacturing industry by enabling the production of virtually any powder material used in powder bed additive manufacturing systems,” said Mostafaei .

Amir Mostafaei’s research team at Illinois Tech is involved in research in all three AM processes and has successfully demonstrated the production of complex shaped parts using a wide range of materials such as steel, titanium, copper and alloys with shape memory, using non-spherical elements. powders.

“The CAREER grant is particularly prestigious and will allow me to establish a five-year research program focused on advanced topics in materials science and manufacturing with a lasting impact on research, education and society,” said Mostafaei.

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