Amorphous-crystalline nanostructured Nd-Fe-B permanent magnets using laser powder bed fusion

A montage of samples and data



Laser powder-bed fusion (PBF-LB) is a class of additive manufacturing (AM) which has attracted wide interest in the production of Nd-Fe-B permanent magnets, benefiting from the minimisation of waste of rare-earth elements, and the post-processing requirements.

Most research on PBF-LB Nd-Fe-B has focused on reducing defects in printed parts alongside the improvement of the resultant magnetic properties.  Detailed analysis of the microstructure that results in permanent magnetic properties is yet to be published.

In the paper 'Amorphous-crystalline nanostructured Nd-Fe-B permanent magnets using laser powder bed fusion: Metallurgy and magnetic properties', by a team from this department's Atom Probe Lab, the Centre for Additive Manufacturing in Nottingham, AMRC in Abu Dhabi, Loughborough Materials and the Powder Electronics, Machines and Control Group at Nottingham, and published by Acta Materialia, combined high resolution microstructural investigations in order to produce a detailed analysis.

For the first time, an in-depth analysis of the grain structure in terms of morphology, size distribution and texture is presented and correlated to the permanent magnetic performance.  Melt pools showed a hierarchical grain size distribution of primary Nd2Fe14B phase grains with a polygonal morphology and random crystalline alignment, in addition to a small amount of Nd-rich and Nd-lean precipitates in the matrix of the Ti-rich amorphous grain boundaries.   

The permanent magnetic properties of this material are mainly determined by the nanostructured Nd2Fe14B grains and the amorphous Ti-rich iron-based intergranular phase, but could be weakened by precipitates that act as magnetic pores.  Re-melting during PBF-LB led to the transformation of the coarse grains of the previously solidified layer to fine ones, favourable for the permanent magnetic properties.  

The mechanisms of these complex phase formations and transformations during processing, and the development of the nanocrystalline microstructure, are elucidated in this paper as a basis for informing the optimisation process for microstructural development.