Elementum 3D on Materials and Expansion in Metal Additive Manufacturing

Elementum 3D

One of the many considerations in 3D printing is what materials should be used for the printing process. Though still limited, 3D printing materials have expanded in recent years. Going from traditional materials like plastics and polymers, like PEEK and PLA, to metals and composites, there have been huge advancements in the field. Recently, researchers have even found ways to print with previously unavailable materials like copper and bone. However, despite this growth, there is still a long way to go. We were able to sit down with Dr. Jacob Nuechterlein of Elementum 3D, an American an additive manufacturing research and development company that specializes in the creation of advanced metals, composites, and ceramics. We learned about their RAM technology and the metal AM sector!

Jake Nuechterlein

Dr. Jacob Nuechterlein

3DN: Could you introduce yourself? When did you start working with 3D printing technologies?
Jacob Nuechterlein, President and founder of Elementum 3D. My background is in materials science and powder metallurgy. I didn’t really work with 3D printing until after I started the company in 2014. In a short time, my company has become one of the world leaders in 3D printing which demonstrates that the industry is moving quickly and new experts in the field are made every day.

3DN: How was Elementum3D formed? What is Elementum3D’s mission?
I raised a small amount of money to get the company off the ground with a mentor of mine, Quinton Hennigh. I started in a corner of a warehouse developing materials on a laser engraver I modified to be able to print in three dimensions. Shortly after filing patents I expanded and added staff to the organization and acquired our first laser powder bed (LPB) 3D printer from EOS. We’ve been developing new materials for LPB ever since.

3DN: Can you tell us a bit more about your RAM technology?
RAM or Reactive Additive Manufacturing forms microstructure controlling precipitates in-situ during the printing process. We use this technology to enable printability of materials that were thought impossible. It also allows us to develop materials specifically for additive manufacturing like our metal matrix composites. While RAM is our core technology it is not our only materials development tool at Elementum 3D.

3DN: What are the needs of the AM community in terms of AM metals? How is Elementum3D meeting these needs?
Additive manufacturing has a limited selection of materials capable of meeting specific property requirements. Three key areas we are frequently asked about are thermal conductivity, high temperature performance, and high strength. Recently we have developed materials for elevated temperature applications. We have aluminums that operate at 200 C higher temperature than cast aluminum alloys. We also recently released nickel superalloys that operate at temperatures well over IN718 (the standard in the industry). We also offer a wide range of materials for applications including radio frequency devices, engine blocks, and thermal management for server farms


A metal carabiner being printed using LBPF (photo credits: Elementum 3D)

3DN: More globally, what are some of the barriers to creating quality materials for the metal AM process?
New customer adoption of AM in general is a first barrier to development. This restricts funding for technological innovations which are complex and require expensive and iterative testing. Another major barrier for adoption is the lack of a global set of international standards for testing. This creates multiple hurdles and repeat expenses to adhere to individual requirements from each customer. Moreover, during the printing process the material microstructure forms which can affect the consistency if the process is not well controlled. This can be exasperated if the process window of the specific material is too tight.

3DN: Who are the main users of metal AM today? (Sectors, products, etc.)
Aerospace, space, defense, medical, high-end automotive, thermal management, energy, oil and gas and others are all using additive manufacturing to some degree. Space and defense sectors seem to be the fastest to adopt additive manufacturing due to logistical and space saving business cases. Many companies have been able to demonstrate business cases where additive manufacturing can compete with CNC machining.

3DN: How do you believe the AM metals sector will evolve in the next 5 years?
I expect to see significant growth in flexible manufacturing spaces that can be ramped rapidly and help reduce warehouse space for spares. As companies demonstrate the ability to replace traditionally machined parts with additive the logistical benefits begin to outweigh the risk of a new manufacturing method. Recent advancements to increase printing speed, and therefore lower costs, have opened many new applications, but the materials selection and lack of data has held adoption back.

A7050 Carabiner Printing Photo Cropped 1

A piece made with Elementum 3D’s nickel superalloy (photo credits: Elementum 3D)

3DN: Any final words you would like to share with our readers?
Additive is on the brink of growing exponentially and we will need high quality materials along with more options to continue moving the industry forward. 3D printing has replaced other manufacturing in several applications and companies who are not considering printing today are already behind the curve. You can find out more about Elementum 3D HERE.

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Jamie Perozzi

VP of Technology 6K Additive

Mr. Perozzi has 20+ years of specialty metals experience with a focus on process, new product development, product management, and application engineering. Before joining 6K, Perozzi spent seven years at AMETEK Specialty Metal Products responsible for quality and process engineering. Prior to Ametek, he spent 10 years at Hitachi Metals – Metglas and 3 years at J&L Specialty Steel. Perozzi holds a BS Metallurgical Engineering degree from Penn State University.

Dr. Timothy Smith

Materials Research Engineer NASA Glenn Research Center

Tim Smith graduated with a PhD in materials science and engineering from Ohio State University in 2016. After graduating, his pathways internship at NASA Glenn research center became a full-time position. His research focuses on high temperature alloy development and characterization. He has contributed to 29 peer-reviewed publications including journals in Nature Communications and Nature Communications Materials. His research has also produced 10 new technology reports and 3 utility patents. He recently received both the Early Career Achievement Medal in 2020 and the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 2022.

Dr. Douglas Hoffman

Senior Research Scientist (SRS)/ Principal Section Technologist NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Dr. Douglas Hofmann is a Senior Research Scientist and Principal at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he serves as the Section Technologist for the Mechanical Fabrication and Test Section. He is also a Lecturer and Visiting Associate at Caltech in the Applied Physics and Materials Science Department. Dr. Hofmann founded JPL’s Metallurgy Facility in 2010, was a charter member of the Materials Development and Manufacturing Technology Group, and helped establish the JPL Additive Manufacturing Center. He is the Principal Investigator of the NASA FAMIS Flight Experiment and was a 2012 recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Obama. He has spent more than 12 years working in metal additive manufacturing and has over 30 granted patents and over 60 peer-reviewed publications.

Dr. Jacob Nuechterlein

President/Founder Elementum 3D

Dr. Jacob Nuechterlein is the founder and president of Elementum 3D in Erie, CO. He earned his Bachelor of Engineering, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy at the Colorado School of Mines. Jacob has been researching, teaching, or consulting on topics such as casting and powder metallurgy for the last 14 years. Elementum 3D’s work with powder bed laser additive manufacturing is based on these principles. In addition, is thesis work in thermodynamics and formation kinetics of metal matrix composites is directly related to all 3D printing processes.