The following is an excerpt.

Kinga Somlo knows more than most about how the smallest building blocks in metals affect the behaviour of readymade products.

Female researcher with test specimens in 3D printed steels
3D printed metals. Kinga Somlo defended her thesis at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) on 8 November 2021. Her work contributes to a deeper understanding of the interplay between microstructure and macroscopic behaviour of 3D printed metals. Now she builds further on this knowledge as part of SIMLab, and the IPN project EXPECT. (Photo: Sølvi W.Normannsen)

On 8 November, she defended her thesis on micromechanical modelling of 3D printed metals at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). Immediately after the defence, she headed back to Trondheim and her new postdoc position at SIMLab. She works on extruded aluminium in the Innovation project EXPECT (Complex EXtruded Aluminium Profiles for BEV Battery ProtECTion System). Among others, she collaborates closely with professors Odd Sture Hopperstad and Tore Børvik.


The EXPECT project, led by Benteler Automotive, addresses the rapidly growing battery tray protection systems and electric vehicle batteries market. Hydro, NTNU and SINTEF Manufacturing collaborate, and Hydro and Benteler aim to commercialize it through specific customer projects.
«My task is to carry out crystal plasticity simulations for extruded aluminium battery tray components. I will also perform some structural optimization to find the best possible geometry of the battery trays», Kinga Somlo explains.

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 THE NEW BACKBONE OF A CARFemale researcher with specimens of 3D printed steels

According to the project’s description, battery trays and battery protection systems are the new “backbone” of a car. As they integrate multitudes of functionalities, the material properties and the structural behaviour of the products are crucial. So is the productivity and competitiveness for the supplier value chain, too. Due to geometric constraints and crash requirements, the sections used are very complex. Also, they require the highest possible strength and crushability to remain competitively priced. EXPECT aims to develop an aluminium alloy optimization scheme for extrudability, crash management, and design functionality of the complex multi-chamber profiles seen more and more in such structures. 


Here, Kinga Somlo’s knowledge comes to its full benefit. In her doctoral work at DTU, she investigated two 3D printed metals. One titanium alloy and one stainless steel (photo). She paid particular interest in the materials’ basic mechanical properties, such as strength, stiffness, and fatigue crack propagation. A 3D printed steel specimenDue to the utterly different manufacturing technology with high variability, the various printed parts will have distinct microstructural and mechanical properties. For instance, strength and stiffness can be affected by the loading direction. These properties are among the more significant concerns related to 3D printed metals.

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3D printing has changed from a niche technology for the particularly interested to a rapidly growing and lucrative market in just a few years. Anything from sportswear to automotive, aviation and aerospace manufacturers and medical-device companies are eager to take advantage. The technology facilitates flexible, small-scale production with reduced waste of materials. Also, it enables the fabrication of complex, lightweight structures that could not be achieved before.
«Metal 3D printing is an emerging manufacturing alternative, which offers unique advantages compared to traditional manufacturing», Somlo states. 


SIMLab’s new Postdoc is from Budapest, Hungary, and this is her second period with the research group. During her PhD studies in Denmark, she came across the work of SFI CASA´s researcher Bjørn Håkon Frodal.
«At DTU, we had a compulsory external stay programme, and Frodal’s work connected well to my project. Additionally, my co-supervisor, Professor Christian Niordson knew Professor Odd Sture Hopperstad. So, it was almost granted that it could be a professionally blooming effective visiting programme», Kinga Somlo says, cheering.Among others, she also studied in Narvik at the Arctic University of Norway for her master. She thus already knew she would enjoy living in Norway upon arriving in autumn 2019. 


Now, she says that she is happy to be back as a Post doctor. Also, she describes her colleagues in a very flattering way.
«They are very smart and helpful. Thus, I can learn a lot. The project is both exciting and fun, and SIMLab is a great workplace. I can use my PhD project background with crystal plasticity. At the same time, there are many new things to learn, which makes it even more interesting», Kinga Somlo says.