Selective laser sintering using nanocomposite materials
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A method of fabricating three-dimensional objects in a layerwise fashion, and having high structural strength and high density, is disclosed. Methods are disclosed by which nanocomposite powders of ceramic-ceramic systems, ceramic-metal systems, ceramic-polymer systems, and metal-polymer systems are produced. Disclosed examples utilize solution chemistry approaches, such as sol-gel processing, by way of which a gel is produced which is then fired and milled to form a powder suitable for selective laser sintering, where a laser fuses selected portions of layers of the powders according to a computer-aided-design data base. The ultraheterogeneity of the powder results in larger surface area and grain boundaries of the constituents, which enhances the solid state diffusion mechanism, and thus reduces the time and temperature required for sintering to occur. In addition, the higher stored metastable energy of the nanocomposite powder is believed to enhance densification during solid-phase sintering. Objects of high density of complex shape may thus be obtained directly from CAD data base design representations.