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Metal powders are the building blocks of 3d printer parts and products. These particles can come in a variety of forms, shapes and grades. Some metals are easier to 3D print than others, and the type of process you choose depends on what you want from your end product.
There are a wide range of applications and fusion techniques used to build up finished metal components with powders, ranging from selective laser melting (SLM) to material jetting and direct energy deposition (DED). The metal materials are typically atomized through gas or plasma atomization.
A wide range of atomized metal powders are available, including titanium alloys, nickel-based alloys, aluminum alloys and cobalt-chromium alloys. Most are produced through a gas atomization process in which a metal feedstock is heated and ejected into a high-pressure stream of gas.
Many manufacturers offer sophisticated heat treatments to improve powder flowability, prevent clogging and speed up the process. These heat treatments can also increase the quality of the final product.
The most common metal 3D printing technology is powder bed fusion, which uses a powerful laser to fuse a bed of powdered metal. This process can create a range of complex parts from a wide variety of metals, including alloys, iron powder and aluminum powder.
Some manufacturers have developed hybrid metal manufacturing systems, which combine additive and subtractive methods. This is useful for large-scale, complex parts.
The Swedish company Sandvik AB is one of the leaders in powder production for additive manufacturing. The company opened two new atomization towers for titanium and nickel-based alloys in 2021. They also offer a lease program called Project Sidecar, which pairs a Spee3D SP3D printer with a mobile DirectPowder unit that can transform barstock into powders for the cold spray process.