3D Printing Hardness in Metals from Swedish VBN Components – 3DPrint.com

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VBN Components is a Swedish materials development company, established in 2008. It focuses on highly wear and heat resistant Additive Manufacturing (AM) alloys, which was quite bold back when it was considered “impossible” to produce high carbide AM materials. Since then, VBN Components has launched revolutionary products within its range of Vibenite® materials, such as “The world’s hardest steel”, Vibenite® 290, in 2017 (hardness ~72 HRC), and the hybrid carbide Vibenite® 480 in 2018 (hardness ~70 HRC).

Customers can order components from VBN, but also obtain a license to produce Vibenite® components in-house. Vibenite® materials have a strong competitive advantage. Components requiring wear resistance were found to last ten times longer than corresponding components made with traditional steel, after replacing the old material with Vibenite®. Reducing product development and modification times through additive manufacturing is another important factor. Testing new designs or adapting parts to specific needs such as cooling channels or reduced weight becomes very accessible. The paradigm shift is in the ability for customers to use much better material in the end application, as many of the limitations of traditional production are removed.

SKF and VBN in Additive Manufacturing Cooperation

Additive manufacturing Vibenite®

Earlier this year it was revealed that VBN is collaborating with SKF, a world leader in bearings. SKF and VBN Components have been working together for several years in the additive manufacturing of hard and highly wear-resistant steels with significantly improved fatigue properties. The latest joint project is for large bearings, where lighter components have the potential to improve performance in demanding conditions and will allow further optimization of machine weight. Previous collaborations with SKF have shown that Vibenite® materials offer very good resistance to rolling fatigue due to their purity, hardness and fine microstructure.

Outstanding wear resistance for Vibenite® 350

Knife in Vibenite® 350 for cutting snacks.

One Vibenite® material that is not usually featured in the media is the corrosion resistant Vibenite® 350. However, its wear rate has been measured to be only 1/6 to 1/7 the wear rate of conventionally processed austenitic stainless steel grades! This indicates exceptional wear resistance, primarily attributed to microstructural characteristics such as high carbon content, as well as carbide size, shape and distribution.

Researchers from the University of Manchester published the results in the open access article “Wear resistance of an additively manufactured high-carbon martensitic stainless steel” in Nature Scientific Reports. The article quotes: “The wear rate was higher than austenitic stainless steel treated with L-PBF and conventional treatment; it was even similar to low applied load EBM treated tool steels. So if you need a really durable corrosion resistant steel, Vibenite® 350 might be what you are looking for!

Vibenite® 480 printable with laser powder bed fusion

Engine piston in Vibenite® 480, hardness around 70 HRC.

As standard, Vibenite® materials are produced with EBM. However, trials with different production methods have been tested and Vibenite® 480 hybrid carbide has now been shown to be suitable for L-PBF. The Institute of Tooling and Manufacturing Technology at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, Germany has successfully printed VBN’s Vibenite® 480 hybrid carbide with L-PBF. Vibenite® 480 is an alloy with high hardness and extremely high carbide content. The metallurgical stability of the material facilitates fusion with L-PBF. The results were presented on May 12e at the “Fachtagung Werkstoffe und Additive Fertigung” conference in Dresden, Germany, entitled “Qualification of the Hybrid Carbide WC-Cr3C2-CoCr for Laser Based-Powder Bed Fusion”.

Growing interest from North American organizations

VBN Components will be present in the AM pavilion at IMTS.

Over the past two years, VBN Components has increased its sales in North America. To cite just one example, in 2021 VBN delivered a significant number of samples to the US Armed Forces of three Vibenite® alloys to test the performance of the materials in multiple applications and configurations. The main objective for the customer is to increase the life of the components and the availability of their systems. The tests are still ongoing.

In May 2021, it was made official that the Vibenite® series of materials were used by the Canadian engineering company Exergy Solutions and that they would be printed with Calibur3 machines from the British company Wayland Additive. Billy Rideout, CEO of Exergy, concluded: “The alliance between Exergy, Wayland and VBN means we are able to deliver significant benefits to our customers. With the support of VBN, Exergy can now provide full design, manufacturing and qualification support for large parts with complex geometries made from difficult or impossible to machine materials. This in turn means longer component life, as the entire part (not just specific areas of the part) is made from highly wear-resistant materials.

In order to expand North American relations, VBN will make its first appearance at the IMTS show in Chicago from September 12 to 17. If you plan to visit the show, you will find them in the AM Pavilion, West Building, Level 3. Take the opportunity to explore how you could improve component life, try new designs, shorten lead times and reduce your environmental impact!

VBN Components is constantly refining process parameter settings, here proven by a tiny “3d benchy”.

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