ORNL 3D-printed magnets attract ‘Momentum’

6/9/2017

Magnets are much more than a nifty ornament used to display artwork on the refrigerator.

“You have 100 or more magnets in any automobile,” explained Paran Paranthaman, from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “In the ignition and the motor or to open the roof or move the seat – every moving part is made with a magnet. A refrigerator magnet is simple; permanent magnets are very powerful and used in wind turbines, high-speed trains, elevators and hospital scanners. Magnets are everywhere.”

Through research and testing, Paranthaman and his team have developed a technique to 3D-print magnets with better magnetic, mechanical and microstructural properties, using the neodymium magnets found in recycled hard disk drives.

This week it was announced that Dallas- based Momentum Technologies has non-exclusively licensed ORNL’s 3Dprinted magnet technology.

Momentum plans to commercialize the first 3D-printed magnet made from recycled materials.

”Momentum Technology will take it to the next level and to the market,” said Paranthaman.

ORNL has demonstrated that 3D printed magnets can outperform those created by traditional methods and could be used in electric vehicles, wind turbines and high-speed rail.

Momentum holds two other ORNL technology licenses related to the extraction of rare earth minerals and magnets from electronic waste.

“Bringing together these technologies through the Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute and ORNL allows us to create a sustainable domestic supply of low-cost magnets made from recycled materials recovered from hard disk drives,” Momentum CEO Preston Bryant said in a news release.

“Old computers are obsolete so we have billions of hard disk drives that are available right now,” said Paranthaman. “We were looking for a domestic supply and developing a method to substitute non-critical materials. Ninety percent of the critical material is imported from China so we are looking at recycling and remanufacturing the domestic material.”

These powerful magnets contain elements known as rare earths. While not rare, they are rarely found in deposits rich enough to be worth mining. With limited availability, their prices can be high and they are usually mined outside the United States.

Paranthaman’s technique melts pellets containing a blend of 65 percent NdFeB (neodymium magnet) and 35 percent nylon.

The laboratory’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine, essentially a 3D printer, is then used to print the magnets to the software’s specifications – layer by layer, using 100 percent of the material.

Paranthaman and his colleagues are not done yet. “We can print on a small scale, but we have plans to do the large scale printing this summer,” he said.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by ALI JAMES

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org

Back to News Listing