Finest powder for a revolutionary technology. 2 minutes spent reading

Finest powder for a revolutionary technology.

Volkmar Held
As a freelance writer, Volkmar Held reports for voestalpine on topics that move people. The content of his stories ranges from archaeometallurgy to future technologies.

With the manufacture of metal powder that is adapted to its specific purpose, voestalpine is creating the basis for innovative additive manufacturing. The know-how of its materials specialists makes voestalpine a central element in this technological revolution.

Best powder for the market

Along with construction data for additive manufacturing, powder is the material basis for the revolutionary game-changing process. It may be made from steel, aluminum, nickel, cobalt chrome or titanium alloys – even gold and copper alloys are possible.

The metal powder used determines the properties of the component. Its production is therefore the focus of increasing attention – especially that of the materials specialists at voestalpine. For example, application of the powder in the laser beam fusion process must be extremely smooth – this requires, among other things, powder with high flowability. This describes the ability of the material and its individual grains to adhere more or less to each other.

Quality of the powder is crucial

The things voestalpine tests using laboratory methods can be simulated in a simpler form at home: take some sand on your flattened hand and begin to tip your hand. The more the top layer of sand tends to begin sliding (“landslide”), the more flowable the sand. To be able to manufacture components from especially uniform layers using additive manufacturing, the powder employed must be flowable. Other important criteria include the high purity of the powder, the oxygen content, the moisture and the consistency of its grain size. The properties are tested and adjusted according to the customer and depending on the additive manufacturing process employed. The materials specialists at voestalpine demonstrate their experience here with their own developments.

Large production facility for fine powder

An individual grain of metal powder might be tiny – but the production facility required for its manufacture needs some space. The atomization unit, for example, is more than 10 meters high. The size is important because the finest particle created through the atomization of the fused basic raw material cool off as they fall and are screened as fine grains of powder and their properties are analyzed. Material that cannot be immediately used can then be funneled back into the process.

Volkmar Held