For applications like the auto industry and aerospace, steel powder materials are the keys to the kingdom. Parts made with sophisticated AM processes can be created with little waste and of stunning design complexity, but they need to be tough.

NanoSteel, a company which specializes in nano-structured steel materials design, says it's developed a metal, matrix-microstructured powder which can be uniformly laser sintered to create 3D printed parts tougher than tool steel.

A major issue when creating high-hardness, 3D printed, metallic parts is an unfortunate tendency for those objects to crack during the building process. Now, working alongside a global process development partner, NanoSteel has developed a proprietary alloy which boasts borocarbide strength.

Called nano-structured steel materials, they are ferrous powders designed to extend steel's capabilities in near net shape wear parts which must function in highly abrasive environments.

These alloys, which feature hardnesses in excess of 1400 HV, also show wear resistances under 10mm³ volume loss and spherical morphology. That means AM engineers can produce high-density parts under tight dimensional control.

The company says this new range of powders allows for the production of extreme hardness wear parts which don't require post-build heat treatment.

"The material options to produce highly wear-resistant parts through additive manufacturing are limited," says Harald Lemke, general manager of NanoSteel for engineered powders. "By extending the reach of steel into markets currently served by WC-Co, ceramics, and other non-ferrous metal matrix metal composites, NanoSteel has the potential to generate cost-efficient wear parts to serve the tooling, mining, energy, and transportation industries in applications such as pumps, bearings, and cutting tools."

Lemke says NanoSteel materials have out-performed tool steel and result in a product which is fully dense (99.9%), crack-free and has wear resistance comparable to conventionally manufactured M2 tool steels.

"NanoSteel was founded in 2002 to create nano-structured sheet steel; to bring to the steel industry a high performance, highly formable steel that could be used to light-weight vehicles," said David Paratore, president and CEO of NanoSteel. "If you look at the auto industry today, they're fighting for every gram of weight savings. What NanoSteel does is change that game. We're not talking about saving grams, we're talking about saving kilograms. We're talking about saving pounds, tens of pounds – maybe even hundreds of pounds – in a car."