Powder Metallurgy

Metal Powder Analysis

Additive Manufacturing (AM), Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) and metal injection molding all have one common critical component: metal powders. Typical powders are made through the atomization process of pure metals, such as titanium, aluminum, nickel, copper, or alloys, such as steel, Inconel, and metallic ceramic.

To ensure that the final parts made with these techniques meet the rigorous requirements of medical, automotive, and aerospace applications, the metal powders used as inputs must be fully characterized and monitored though out the production cycle: during the powder atomization/production process, upon incoming QA/QC at the part production facility, during storage and part production, and after powder recycling. Bruker offers the most comprehensive range of instruments for the elemental and compositional analyses of these advanced materials.

Particle chemistry impacts the fundamental performance of the final printed or molded parts. Bruker’s X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzers provide rapid, detailed, measurement of the powder’s elemental composition upon final inspection of metal powders and fast and accurate verification of material certification for incoming inspection.

The content of light elements like O, N, H, Ar and C, S must be tightly controlled at every step. Carbon impacts hardness, brittleness & melt point and Sulfur is a generally undesirable element but may be added to enhance machinability during finishing. Oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen strongly influence material properties and must constantly be monitored as content will change during processing. Argon remaining in metal powders after atomization affects porosity and creates inclusions in final parts Bruker’s Combustion Gas Analyzers (C, S) and Inert Gas Fusion – Mass Spectrometry (O, N, H, Ar) instruments are industry-proven to measure these critical elements to ensure finished part quality and durability.

Understanding the mechanical properties of the powder is also critical to these advanced manufacturing processes. Bruker’s high precision Micro Computed Tomography (µCT) delivers extensive information about metal powder attributes that impact the final printed part including: sphere size distribution, sphericity, packing, porosity, and surface to volume ratio as well as particle surface roughness, convexity & form factor.

Bruker’s industry leading Nano Indentation instruments are used during process development to characterize powder particle mechanical properties including single particle compression, fracture characterization & inhomogeneity mapping. Additionally, powder surface force and agglomeration force analyses are critical to prevent defects and voids.

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