Cummins uses 3D printing to repair cylinder heads

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Badly eroded heavy-duty vehicle engines may soon be able to be repaired using 3D printing after successful trials by diesel engine maker Cummins and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

A Cummins engine repaired and strengthened using a 3D printing process. Photo: Brittany Cramer/ORNL, US DOE

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Rather than replacing cylinder heads damaged by a million miles of extreme conditions, the research team has ‘scooped out’ the worn section and used additive manufacturing to deposit a high-performance alloy better than the original casting.

The goal of the process, developed at the US Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, is to save energy while extending the life of the engine and making it stronger.

"We’re decreasing the engine’s thermal conductivity, which holds heat in longer, and turning it into increased efficiency," Cummins parts R&D engineer Nikhil Doiphode says. "While these are not brand-new engines, we’re striving to make them better than new."

ORNL researchers are also using 3D printing to make permanent magnets that can outperform bonded magnets made using traditional techniques while conserving critical rare-earth materials.

The scientists fabricated the isotropic, near-net-shape, neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) bonded magnets using the facility’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine.

Principal investigator Parans Paranthaman says that, while conventional sintered magnet manufacturing may result in material waste of as much as 30 to 50 percent, additive manufacturing will simply capture and reuse those materials with nearly zero waste.


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