Jan 11, 2016 | By Kira

Metal powders are proving to be the fastest-growing segment within the 3D printing materials market, and sales of metal 3D printers have been skyrocketing faster than, well, a 3D printed skyrocket component, however metal powders themselves still require significant improvements before they can be adopted as a mainstream manufacturing material in high-demand industries such as aerospace, medical, auto making and more.

Hoping to become a 'disruptive supply source for the aerospace, medical, oil and gas, automotive, and defence sectors, among other industries', Canadian company Equispheres has developed a proprietary atomization reactor that produces more consistent, ultra-high-performance spherical metal powders, which allow for more precision and control in additive manufacturing and metal spray applications. Using this atomization technology, for which the Ottawa-based company has just filed a patent application, Equispheres plans to begin marketing its free-flowing, consistently sized, spherical metal powders for aerospace and defense applications in particular within the first quarter of 2016.

We all know that metal 3D printing is ideal for advanced engineering and fabrication applications—particularly within the automotive and aerospace industries—as metal materials are significantly more robust, lightweight, and resistant to extreme heat. However, the problem with the majority of metal powders, which are for the most part produced via two fluid gas atomization processes, is that they often contain a variety of inconsistencies that can lead to defects within the finished, 3D printed part.

For example, metal powders often turn out to be irregularly shaped and can have a wide size distribution. In other cases, they can contain agglomerate particles, or else they might not be fully dense. In any case, when you are producing an extremely high-value component such as a 3D printed rocket engine part, in which every microscopic detail can affect the entire mechanisms’ functionality, there is simply no room for error or inconsistencies.

Equispheres’ patent-pending technology, on the other hand, promises to be “better at producing free-flowing, uniform, monograin, agglomerate-free spherical metal powders,” which, the company says, can bring improved control, flowability, and performance efficiencies throughout metal 3D printing processes and cold spray additive manufacturing (the latter is a coating deposition method for metals, polymers, ceramics and composite materials where the powder is not melted during the spraying process).

“Today marks a major milestone for Equispheres and our shareholders,” said Kevin Nicholds, Equispheres president and CEO. “With the successful commissioning of our first commercial atomization reactor, we have demonstrated our technology can successfully produce metal powders with superior performance characteristics compared to powders currently available in the marketplace.”

"Equispheres' metal powders enable us to better support the manufacturing needs of aerospace and other industries," added Nicholds. Based in Canada’s capital city, Equispheres was just launched in 2015, however the company’s engineers and directors seem to have a laser-like focus on this extremely high-demand area within metal manufacturing.

The planned commissioning phase is expected to last roughly 90 days, after which point Equispheres will scale-up its production capacity to ‘commercial quantities’ and begin marketing its unique, ultra-high-performance metal powders to partners in the aerospace industry for further testing and validation in additive manufacturing and metal spray applications.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

 

 

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