Refractory alloys have extraordinary resistance to heat and wear and are the desired material for extreme environment applications on space-craft, missiles, and hypersonic vehicles. 3D printing enables a superior shape producing capability. Here, successful 3D printing of high quality Niobium C103 alloy components is demonstrated, with process optimization based on builds of “Gao blocks”, a shape incorporating a complex geometry.
A hypersonic leading edge concept, with a porous insert to allow for cooling fluid behind the leading edge, has been built in a single operation, with an external wall thickness of 250 µm. Other components include thruster designs with active cooling.
The microstructure of the niobium parts shows, showing build traces and grain structure, demonstrate a homogeneous material as-built, as required for the application, and show stability after heat treatment at 1600°C for 2 hours. Mechanical properties of witness coupons are consistent with wrought properties for Niobium C103.