Making High-Performance Parts Inexpensive and Durable
In the past, these advanced materials were typically manufactured from powder that was poured into a die, subjected to high pressure and slowly heated in a process called hot pressing. However, hot pressing results in waste heat, contributing to high costs. Those costs have limited the widespread use of advanced materials in industries that manufacture everyday items such as automobiles.
More recently, engineers have developed a cost-saving process called spark plasma sintering (SPS). Instead of heat, SPS sends electricity through the die, and sometimes the material itself, to fuse the molecules of powdered metals, ceramics, or a mixture of both.
Now, Idaho National Laboratory has developed world-class capabilities to help industry design efficient SPS manufacturing processes. The lab’s newest addition, one of the largest machines of its kind in the world, makes it possible to manufacture new materials at industrially relevant scales. INL has designed and built four custom SPS machines that range from supporting small experiments on the bench-scale to industrial-scale, large-format, high-throughput systems.