Metal powders are used in 3D printers for stainless steel, aluminum, cobalt chromium alloys, copper alloys, titanium alloys, and nickel alloys. Iron base alloy is the largest and most important metal material in engineering technology. It is widely used for the creation of complex structures.
The performance of the final product will depend on the type of metal powder and 3D printing method used.
Low-cost metal printing materials can be used for small batches of complex industrial parts manufacturing.
Aluminium alloy powder
AlSi12Mg is the most commonly used aluminum alloy in metal 3D printers. Aluminosilicate 12 (lightweight additive) is used to create metal powders with excellent thermal properties. Combining silicon and magnesium gives aluminum alloys greater strength and stiffness. They are suitable for thin walls, complex geometry, and applications with high thermal properties. Aluminum alloy is an industry staple due to its low density, high specific strengths, close to or greater than high-quality steel and good plasticity. 3D printing of aluminum alloy has been shown to produce compact parts with small structures, similar to casting, or even better than cast molding parts. The cost of 3D printing can be reduced up to 30%, while the mass can be reduced 22%.
Cobalt chrome alloy powder
It is useful in dentistry, as well as for printing all kinds of artificial joints.
Copper alloy Powder
Copper has excellent thermal conductivity as well as electrical conductivity. It can be used in thermal management applications to combine design degrees for complex internal structures and conformal cool channels.
Titanium alloy powder
It is widely used within the aerospace industry. 3D printing offers many benefits. One example is the ability to replace a solid body with a complex, reasonable structure. The result is a product that is lighter and has better mechanical properties. This will not only reduce costs but also allow for lighter production.
Nickel alloy pulver
Nickel alloy’s oxidation and corrosion resistance make it ideal for harsh environments such as high temperature and high stress. To protect the internal nickel alloy from corrosion, the alloy’s surface will passivate when it is heated. Nickel alloys have good mechanical properties across a wide range temperature ranges.
Can powdered materials be used in 3D printing?
3D data can be used to control laser beams of high energy to locally melt metal matrix, sinter powder metal material, and then stack it in layers to produce solid parts.
How do you make 3D printing metal powder?
Solid-state reduction, electrolysis and chemical are the most common methods to produce metal powders.
Many manufacturers use electrolysis or reduction methods to make elemental metal particles. However, they are not suitable in making alloy powders.
Alloy powder can be made using the atomization method.
Another way to make powdered metals is by electrolysis. Different metals can either be made spongy, or powdery depending on the electrolyte composition, temperature and concentration. These can then be washed or dried and reduced to annealed, or crushed. This process is used to produce extremely pure metal powder. This method is used to make highly conductive copper powder.
Atomization is a mechanical process that pulverizes molten steel into pieces smaller than 150mm. According to the classification for crushing metal melt, the atomization process includes the second flow, centrifugal and ultrasonic atomizations, as well as vacuum atomization. These atomization techniques have their own unique characteristics and have been used successfully in industrial production. Water-gas atomization is one of the most preferred industrial methods for making metal powder. It has simple equipment and processes, as well as low energy consumption.
Performance requirements of metal powder for 3D printing
Ceramic inclusions can adversely affect the final product’s performance. They also have a high melting points, which makes it difficult to sinter. Therefore, powders must not contain ceramic inclusions. You must also control the nitrogen and oxygen levels. Powder preparation is done primarily by atomization. Powder with a large surface area is easy to oxidize. This index is required by customers for special applications such as aerospace. The superalloy and titanium alloy powder oxygen contents are 0.007%-0.013% respectively. The oxygen content of stainless steel powder is 0.010%-0.025%.
2. Powder fluidity, loose density
The powder’s fluidity directly influences the uniformity of powder spreading as well as the stability of powder feeding. Powder morphology, bulk density and particle size distribution are all factors that affect the fluidity. Fluidity is dependent on the size and distribution of powder particles. A larger proportion of fine powders in the particle size composition will result in a more consistent shape. Fluidity of powder increases as a function of particle density and relative density. The fluidity of powder is also reduced by the adsorption gas and water on its surface.
3. Powder particle size distribution
Different 3D printing equipments and forming processes have different requirements for powder size distribution. The most commonly used powder particle size range in metal 3D printing at the moment is between 15-53mm (fine) and 53-105mm (“coarse”). The different energy sources used by metal printers can affect the choice of powder size for 3D printing. Because of the fine focal spot and ease of melting fine powder, printers using laser energy are suitable to print 15-53mm-sized powder. A powder-laying printer that uses electron beam energy as a source of energy has a slightly coarser focal spot which makes it more suitable for melting powder. It can be used for coarse powders of 53 to 105mm. As consumables for coaxial powder feeders, powders with particle sizes between 105 to 150mm are possible.
4. Powder morphology
The powder preparation method has a direct impact on the morphology. The shape of powder particles when metal gas or liquid is turned into powder is spherical. Powder particles that are made by aqueous electrolysis are dendritic. The higher the sphericity, generally speaking, the better fluidity of powder particles. This makes it easier to lay down and feed powder during 3D printing.
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