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Binder jetting and beyond: Optimising the use of metal powders for additive manufacturing

Binder jetting and beyond: Optimising the use of metal powders for additive manufacturing

The high cost of metal powders for Additive Manufacturing makes them a primary focus for cost management. Learning how to treat and store such powders in order to maintain and optimise their performance and value is one way to improve production economics. In a recent article published in Metal AM, Dr Rajeev Dattani, from Freeman Technology and Dr Animesh Bose, Desktop Metal, review how to test powders in order to develop this knowledge, and examine treatment and storage regimes that can be beneficial.

Metal powders for additive manufacturing (AM) are relatively expensive. For example, an AM titanium powder can cost up to £200 per kg, depending on market fluctuations, an order of magnitude more than the solid material (bar stock). As a result, powder feed represents a significant proportion of the manufactured cost of printed components. Easily measured and highly visible, the expenditure associated with powder feeds is routinely a target for cost management making it vital to choose a supply well-matched to the specific application. Understanding how to optimise powder performance, for example through pre-treatment or by effective storage, supports this decision-making process and can pay dividends when it comes to minimising costs within the constraint of meeting demanding product quality targets.

In this article we examine the factors that contribute to the costs of AM powders, comparing the manufacturing methods used in their production and how they impact critical powder properties. A collaborative study carried out by Freeman Technology (Tewkesbury, UK) and Desktop Metal (Burlington, USA), a manufacturer of commercial binder jetting printers for metal AM, illustrates how these properties can be modified or controlled by baking (under air or nitrogen) and by storage under different conditions. The results highlight potential strategies for optimising AM metal powder performance.

Click here and go to page 143 to read the article in full.