Atomized Metal Powders:Applications, Specifications and Comparisons

Table of Contents

Atomized metal powders enable manufacturing methods like additive manufacturing and thermal spray needing feedstock with tailored particle sizes, shapes and metallurgical properties. This guide reviews production processes, specifications, suitable metals, usages, vendor selection and alternatives around commercial atomized powders.

atomized metal powders Overview

Atomization converts molten metal streams into fine spherical droplet sprays rapidly cooling into powder form. Key attributes versus alternatives like chemical precipitation include:

  • Controlled particle size distribution from 10 microns to 300+ microns
  • Ability to process reactive alloys in inert gas atmospheres
  • Rapid solidification producing finer microstructures
  • Lower oxygen and nitrogen impurity levels
  • Cost-effectiveness from high powder yields targeting 50%+
  • Adaptability preparing most commercial metals and alloys

Understanding available production methods, specifications, applications and economics enables properly leveraging atomization’s benefits and limitations when selecting metal powders.

atomized metal powders

Methods for Atomizing Metal Powders

Industrial scales require atomization through either gas, water or centrifugal processes:

MethodDescriptionMetals UsedParticle Sizes
GasSupersonic inert gas jets convert metal stream into powderMost common. Reactive materials compatible10 μm – 150 μm
WaterHigh pressure water disintegrates molten metal exposing it to rapid quenchPrimarily copper and iron. Limited reactive materials5 μm – 350 μm
CentrifugalMolten metal accelerated outwards from a spinning disk. Rapidly cools into powder.Most metals compatible. Lower reactive capability45 μm – 1 mm+

Table 1. Commercial scale atomization techniques for producing metal powders alongside output traits

Each technique provides unique advantages around particle sizing, powder yields, quench rates and compatibility across the expansive metals universe.

Metals and Alloys Compatible with Atomization

Atomization viably processes most commercial metals and alloys including:

  • Titanium alloys containing aluminum and vanadium
  • Superalloys like nickel-based Inconel and cobalt-based Haynes alloys
  • High temperature metals such as molybdenum, tungsten and tantalum
  • Reactive elements like chromium and manganese
  • Precious metals including gold, silver and platinum
  • Refractory metals: niobium, zirconium and hafnium
  • Common austenitic stainless steels 316L and 304L varieties

Strong chemical reactivity under molten states does restrict applicability for some elemental metals like pure manganese or chromium. But blending into alloys mitigates reactivity downsides through atomization compatibility – an advantage over other powder production approaches.

Characteristics and Properties of Atomized Metal Powders

Atomization outputs metal powders with tailored powder characteristics meeting production process needs:

Particle Size Distributions

  • Tunable from 10 microns to 1 mm sizes, sievable into precise fractions

Particle Shape

  • Predominantly spherical morphologies especially with inert gas atomization

Internal Porosity

  • Rapid solidification and inert processing minimizes trapped gases creating voids

Chemical Purity

  • 99%+ achievable for inert gas atomized materials. Water atomization slightly less.

Surface Oxide

  • Water atomization entrains 5-15X more surface oxygen contamination versus inert atomizing protections

Microstructural Phases

  • Rounded by rapid quenching compared to cast ingot counterparts

The ability optimizing particle size and shape parameters while retaining high chemical cleanliness and favorable microstructures suits atomized metal powders to additive manufacturing feedstocks where such characteristics critically influence process success and final part performances realized.

Metal Powder Size Specifications from Atomization

Atomized metal powder lots classify based on particle size distributions. Common sieve sizes include:

MeshMicron SizeTypical Usage
+100>150 μmThermal spray components and coatings
-100 +325105 – 150 μmHot isostatic pressing precursors
-325/+50032 – 105 μmBinder jet/cold spray 3D printing
-500<32 μmPowder bed fusion additive manufacturing

Table 2. Particle size categories for classified atomized metal powders aligned to manufacturing process compatibilities

Most proprietary atomization systems target 50%+ yields of powder collected within manufacturing grade specifications after sieving separation of oversize and undersize fractions recycled back into the process melt stream.

Industry Specifications for Atomized Metal Powders

Various associations maintain compositional, chemical and physical property standards for commercial metal powders including:

EntityStandard NumberMetals Covered
ASTM InternationalF3049Titanium and Titanium Alloys
ASTM InternationalF3056Nickel and Nickel Alloys
ASM InternationalMMPDS-06Multiple Metal Materials Properties
APMI Int’lANSI/APMI B.101Copper and Copper Alloys

Table 3. Trade groups offering specifications applicable towards sieved chemistries and powder metrics useful for quality assurance across atomized materials

Additionally, individual manufacturers provide narrowly scoped specifications covering unique alloys or specialty characteristics like maximum oxygen or nitrogen thresholds critical for reactive alloy processing.

Reviewing certification scopes ensures standards properly cover buyer mandated composition windows, acceptable powder characteristics like hall flow rates and chemical purity levels matching both atomization capabilities and subsequent production process requirements.

Applications and Uses for Atomized Metal Powder

Offering a backbone feedstock for industrial manufacturing, key metal powder applications include:

Additive Manufacturing

  • Aerospace components – turbine blades, airfoils
  • Medical implants – hip, knee and dental replacements
  • Tooling – Lightweight conformally-cooled plastic injection molds
  • Chemical reactors – High surface area structured catalyst supports

Thermal Spray

  • Oil & gas anti-corrosion coatings – downhole tools
  • Printing roll surfaces resisting abrasion
  • Chrome replacement automotive surfaces
  • High release low friction architectual glass molds

Powder Metallurgy

  • Automotive transmission gears and engine components
  • Permanent magnets in motors and sensors
  • Diamond tooling inserts and cutting tools
  • Electrical contacts leveraging specific conductivity

The foundation feedstocks serve any application demanding combined chemistry and refined powder texture capable of consolidation into end-use geometries.

Atomized Metal Powder Manufacturers and Vendors

Leading global suppliers providing atomization capabilities for medical, aerospace and industrial markets include:

Carpenter TechnologyUnited States
PraxairUnited States

Table 4. Notable manufacturers offering atomized metal powder production from various process technologies

Secondary brokers also distribute powders but best practice procures directly from mills providing lot traceability and eliminating intermediary quality risks contaminating materials between major producers and end part makers.

Pricing for Atomized Metal Powders

Pricing varies based on composition, particle size distribution, production volume and quality:

MaterialPrice per Kilogram
Titanium Ti64$50 – $150
Nickel Superalloys$50 – $250
Stainless Steels$5 – $30
Tool Steels$2 – $15

Niche alloys made in small batches demand higher prices offsetting furnace changeovers. Commodity metals like stainless steel reprocessed at high volumes offer lowest cost. But buyers validate fair relative value by comparing resulting performance increases against usage in final components.

Pros and Cons of Atomized Metal Powder

Advantages of atomized metal powders:

  • Controlled particle size distributions at commercial production rates
  • Spherical powder morphology from inert gas processes
  • Rapid solidification and inert processing provide chemical cleanliness
  • Adapts to wide array of specialty alloy feedstock needs

Limitations to consider:

  • 10-100X feedstock cost increases over wrought product forms
  • Limited on-demand flexibility with long lead time needs
  • Attention required not over-specifying powder qualities or costs balloon

Properly weighting benefits against limitations helps avoid overspending just to use buzzword technologies yielding no appreciable customer value.

atomized metal powders

Comparisons to Other Metal Powder Production Methods

Tradeoffs between common metal powder manufacturing approaches:

MethodScalabilityCostPurityParticle ControlMetals Limitations
AtomizationVery High$$$$HighExcellentSome elemental metals
ElectrolysisHigh$$Medium to HighModerate
Chemical PrecipitationHigh$MediumPoor

Table 5. Qualitative comparisons across commercial scale metal powder production methods

While producing significant volumes with optimized powder characteristics, atomization does command pricing premiums that could limit adoption in cost-sensitive industries like autos.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the primary purpose of atomization for metal powders?

A: Precisely controlling particle size and shape parameters otherwise random across other techniques to suit strict requirements of additive manufacturing processes.

Q: Do recycled metal powders retain original properties?

A: Yes, factors like oxygen pickup and microstructural phases largely unchanged allowing reuse to supplement virgin production powders.

Q: Can gas atomization achieve sub 10 micron powder sizes?

A: Extremely fine distributions down below 5 microns possible but at very low yields not economical for commercial additive manufacturing usage as surface area drives reactivity.

Q: What industries use atomized metal parts?

A: Aerospace, medical, automotive, and oil/gas all leverage tailored alloys and microstructures produced from atomization process uniqueness.

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