Mar 26, 2018 | By Tess

UK metal powder producer LPW Technology is teaming up with tantalum and niobium expert Global Advanced Metals Pty Ltd (GAM) to develop and demonstrate the effectiveness of spheroidized tantalum powders for metal 3D printing.

Tantalum is a refractory metal notable for its corrosive-resistant properties and chemical inertness. Popular applications for the metal material include the production lab equipment, as well as the manufacturing of tantalum capacitors in mobile phones, video game systems, computers, and other electronics.

According to LPW and GAM, refractory metals such as tantalum are currently not prevalent in the additive manufacturing industry, and both companies want to more fully explore the potential benefits and applications for the material. “A need exists for a more thorough proof of concept and development of print criteria,” they say.

To this end, tantalum specialist GAM will collaborate with AM powder expert LPW to demonstrate and analyze the use of tantalum powder for metal additive manufacturing. GAM already has a portfolio of tantalum powders in nodular, angular, fractal, and spherical morphologies.

“Leveraging LPW’s laser powder bed fusion expertise, developed by viewing AM from the perspective of the powder, represents one step of our strategy to extend our offering in tantalum and other refractory metals to the additive manufacturing marketplace,” commented Andrew O’Donovan, CEO of GAM.

“We can now measure and share physicochemical data for both our spherical tantalum and the resulting 3D printed part and bring this solution to our partners, for example practitioners, designers and manufacturers of tantalum based surgical implants and other high reliability and critical devices.”

Showing the material’s applicability within the metal 3D printing sector will enable GAM to market its tantalum powders to a range of industries, including the military, aerospace, dental, and medical sectors. In regard to the latter, tantalum reportedly offers “superior osteointegration, higher biocompatibility, and reduced stress shielding” compared to existing metal and alloy-based implants.

LPW, for its part, will provide its development and testing services to GAM for its tantalum powders as well as other support.

“This initiative demonstrates the benefits of two experts in their fields partnering to expand the materials knowledge-base for AM and accelerate its adoption for production,” said Ben Ferrar, LPW’s COO. “The performance of metal powder feedstock is key to building consistent AM parts and delivering the required mechanical properties.

"This work will further develop understanding of the factors affecting tantalum powder spheroidization and how it performs in the AM process, adding assurance to metal AM producers of the material compatibility for AM production.”

Earlier this year, GAM installed Tekna TEKSPHERO plasma spheroidization equipment at one of its U.S. facilities to produce spherical powders for the additive manufacturing market.

As ever, we’re interested to hear about new materials being explored and developed for metal 3D printing applications. Perhaps soon we’ll be writing about 3D printed tantalum implants as a result of LPW Technology and GAM’s partnership.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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