Enter the 2019 R&D 100 Awards!
MELD is a 2018 R&D 100 Award winner. All of the R&D 100 Awardees were announced at the R&D 100 Awards Gala held in Orlando, Florida on Nov. 16, 2018.
The R&D 100 Awards have served as the most prestigious innovation awards program for the past 57 years, honoring R&D pioneers and their revolutionary ideas in science and technology.
Submissions for the 2019 R&D 100 Awards are now being accepted. Any new technical product or process that was first available for purchase or licensing between January 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019, is eligible for entry in the 2019 awards.
Start or complete your entry now: visit: https://rd1002019.secure-platform.com/a For more info: www.rd100conference.com/awards
New metal additive manufacturing technology that eliminates the need to melt the material, could help manufacturers in several different industries produce stronger complex parts at the same speed with a lower cost than existing processes.
MELD, produced by Virginia-based MELD Manufacturing, works by depositing the material by thermo-mechanical means. A combination of forces and rotation cause severe plastic deformation that make both the deposited material and the material deposited onto it malleable.
The materials are in a solid state and are not melted—both materials are stirred together. The friction of the stirring action causes individual material grains to be broken up into smaller sizes, providing enhanced strength and performance properties like corrosion resistance and wear resistance. The new free flowing material is in a special malleable state and is still below its melting point.
Additive manufacturing is the process of making 3D parts layer-by-layer, enabling the production of complex parts. However, traditional techniques come with several limitations because they often rely on melting the materials, ultimately weakening the end result with hot cracks, pores, segregation and residual stress.
MELD is an open atmosphere process, which can be adapted basically anywhere, with no powder beds or special chambers, allowing it to be scaled up to manufacture parts much larger than other processes. The environmentally-friendly and highly scalable technology was a 2018 R&D 100 Award winner.
Nanci Hardwick, CEO of MELD Manufacturing, explained in an exclusive interview with R&D Magazine that MELD was a decade in the making.
“It really began with an idea for solid state metal deposition and in our early days some of our focus was on joining using this process and coating using this process,” she said. “The additive manufacturing revolution happened kind of simultaneously and we were very excited to offer this very different technology as an additive method.
“We had begun our work using solid bars of metal and also using powders,” she added. “So right from the very beginning there was a ton of flexibility in the ways you can use the MELD process and the combinations of metals that can be used.”
According to Hardwick, the most challenging part of the 10-year plus process of developing MELD was creating the appropriate hardware to use in the system.
“There was a very big gap between a breadboard style proof-of-concept piece of hardware and a robust, hardened piece of hardware with embedded control systems in it,” she said. “It was certainly a challenge to have to, not only develop a process, but develop all the components around that process to make the process possible. The machines, software, the tooling, all of that also had to be developed to create and mature the MELD process.”
Multiple materials can be used as feed materials for MELD to produce multi-material or functionally-graded parts. The researchers have successfully used metals, metal alloys, and metal matrix composites (MMCs) thus far with MELD systems. MELD can also accept and process other feed material forms, such as powders and solid rods.
Hardwick said virtually any heavy manufacturing industry could use MELD to streamline their production.
“The process is done in open atmosphere and that really opens up where you can do it and how you can MELD,” Hardwick said. “You can bring equipment to let’s say large power generation sites and perhaps repair equipment that is 100 years old. Every industry is very different and we have customers who are moving through a series of test with parts that have fabricated with the MELD process.”
Hardwick said the researchers are now working on their third iteration of MELD.
The first MELD machine was three cubic feet of build space, with the second version coming in at 82 cubic feet of build space. Plans for the third version of MELD call for the launch of the machinery at 266 cubic feet of build space.
“Our current focus is to go bigger and since we came to market last year with our initial machine model, we’ve added a second model to the lineup and we are now working on a third,” she said. “With each the scalability has dramatically increased.”