Marine-grade stainless steel, or 316 as it’s called in the industry, is highly sought after for applications that range from underwater storage tanks to kitchen utensils and appliances. This need stems from its unique ability to resist pitting and corrosion after being exposed to salt and water. However, these properties are usually obtained by adding molybdenum, which can have an adverse effect on the ability to stretch and form a metal.
Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory may have come across a way to preserve the non-corrosive capabilities of 316 while simultaneously improving its ductility. The team announced a technique for 3D-printing a low-carbon type of marine grade stainless steel that they’re calling 316L.
As profiled in Nature Materials, the additive production process has been found to enhance both strength and ductility properties. This breakthrough translates to expanded capabilities in industries such as aerospace that operate in harsh environments where materials need to be durable, flexible, and non-corrosive.
The ability to 3D print these types of materials stems from analyzing their structure and understanding the small, splinter-like defects that seem to form when the metals are produced in traditional ways. Bringing an additive process addressed these gaps while preserving the essential benefits. Perhaps more exciting is that researchers believe this breakthrough could lead to improved production approaches for numerous other materials by using 3D printing. The results could enhance quality exponentially across a range of products and industries.