Critical Materials Institute Uses 3D Metal Printer To Push For Rare Earth Magnet Substitutes

Can 3D-Printed Magnets Replace Rare Earth Magnets?

Additive manufacturing can turn everyday magnetic material into alternatives for expansive rare-earth magnets.

Stephen Mraz, Machine Design

Engineers at the Ames Laboratory’s Critical Materials Institute used laser 3D metal printing to turn permanent magnet material into an economical alternative to more expensive rare-earth neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) magnets. The researchers experimented with magnets 3D printed from different combinations of cobalt, iron, copper, and cerium (a less-expensive, more-plentiful rare earth material than neodymium). The researchers produced a range of compositions in samples that were printed using a 3D laser metal printer.

“The ceria-based alloy was a known magnetic material, but we wanted to revisit it to see if we could find exceptional magnetic properties,” says CMI scientist Ryan Ott. “With four elements, there is a vast number of compositions to explore, and3D printing greatly accelerates the search process.”

“It is very challenging to use laser printing to identify potential permanent magnet phases for bulk materials because of the need to develop the necessary microstructure,” says CMI scientist Ikenna Nlebedim. “But this research shows that additive manufacturing can be used to rapidly and economically identifying promising permanent magnet alloys.”

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