3d printer aluminum powder

Table of Contents

Aluminum is a popular metal powder for additive manufacturing thanks to its low density, good mechanical properties, machineability, corrosion resistance and conductivity. Optimizing aluminum powder characteristics enables reliable printing of strong, lightweight aluminum parts across aerospace, automotive and industrial applications.

This guide covers properties, specifications, atomization production, quality assurance considerations, applications and advice on sourcing aluminum powders for powder bed fusion or binder jet 3D printing.

3d printer aluminum powder Compositions

Common aluminum grades for AM include:

AlloyDescriptionTypical Composition
AlSi10MgCast alloy with silicon and magnesium additions for strength and corrosion resistanceRemainder Al, 9-11% Si, 0.25-0.45% Mg, 0.8% max Fe, 0.2% max Cu
AlSi7MgVery similar to AlSi10Mg with slightly lower silicon contentRemainder Al, 6-8% Si, 0.25-0.45% Mg, 0.8% max Fe, 0.2% max Cu
6061Very common heat treatable wrought alloy with magnesium and siliconRemainder Al, 0.8-1.2% Mg, 0.4-0.8% Si, 0.7% max Fe, 0.15-0.4% Cu, 0.04-0.35% Cr

Match composition to mechanical properties, corrosion resistance, weldability needs and alloy costs.

3d printer aluminum powder

Specification Overview

ParameterDetailsTest Method
Purity>98% Aluminum preferredICP analysis
Particle shapeSpherical >90% desiredMicroscopy
Size distributionD50: 25-45 μm typicalLaser diffraction
Apparent density1.2-1.8 g/ccHall flow meter
FlowabilityHall flow 25-50 sec for 50 g sampleHall flow meter
Oxides & Hydroxides<3% by weightTGA, XRD, Inert gas fusion
Moisture content<0.2% by weightTGA analysis

High powder quality and consistency required for defect minimized AM processing into high density, strong parts.

Atomization Methods

3d printer aluminum powder production via:

  • Air Atomization – High pressure air disintegrates molten aluminium into fine spherical droplets preventing oxidation. Lower energy process results in larger particles suitable for binder jet printing.
  • Nitrogen Atomization – Nitrogen ambient prevents surface oxidation during atomization enabling finer powder sizes, lower oxygen and higher flow characteristics preferred for SLM and EBM.
  • Electrode Rotating Atomization – Rapidly spinning thin molten aluminium into nitrogen results in powder with very tight size distributions good packing density.

Controlling process atmospheres, cooling rates and gas dynamics optimizes aluminum particle sizes and morphologies for powder bed applications requiring good flow and shear response.

Mechanical Properties

AlloyDensity (g/cc)Yield Strength (MPa)Tensile Strength (MPa)Elongation

Meeting specified strengths requires optimized printing parameters and post-processing like aging. Part orientation also significantly impacts mechanical performance.

Metal AM Applications

AlSi10Mg aluminum sees wide use across industries for additively manufactured:

  • Aerospace & Defense: Lightweight airframe, UAV components; conformal heat exchangers and cold plates; active lattice structures. Rapid tooling for composite layups.
  • Automotive: Aluminum has 3X lower embodied energy than steel allowing greater fuel efficiency through weight reduction. Customized car body panels, fittings, chassis elements like control arms enable performance improvements. Heat exchanger parts like manifold housings add functionality gains. Jigs and fixtures for carbon fiber composites.
  • Industrial: Customized series production for small to medium lot sizes. Heat sinks for electronics thermal management with optimized form factors. Fluid flow components like impellers, pumps, valves and housings. Jigs, fixtures, guides and gages offering lightweight durability.
  • Architecture: Specialized custom parts made on-demand. Decorative elements using hybrid printing with bronze infill. Dimensionally accurate scale models for visualization.

Certification Standards

  • ASTM B556 – Standard Specification for Powder Metallurgy (PM) Aluminum Alloy Structural Components Using Alloy 6061
  • ASTM B925 – Standard Specification for Premium Quality Aluminum Alloy Powder for Processing via Powder Metallurgy Methods for Automotive, Aerospace, and Defense Applications
  • ASTM E2926 – Standard Specification for Additive Manufacturing Aluminum Powders and Feedstock

Review statistically validated batch certificates showing compliance relative to target grade specifications and AM processing needs before purchase.

Common Defects

Key aluminum metal AM defects with root causes:

PorosityMoisture; Oxides; Metal vaporizationLower humidity; minimize oxides; adapt energy density
CrackingRapid cooling; Residual stresses; ImpuritiesOptimize build plate preheating; Hot isostatic pressing; High purity powder
DelaminationRecoater blade forces; Poor layer fusionSmooth powder size distribution; Optimize spread layer; Validate spreader settings
BallingHigh surface tension inhibits flowPreheat plate for faster melting
Surface Finish IssuesSpatter, unmelted particles fused inParameter optimization for a given powder

Adapt printing parameters through trial builds to achieve fully dense parts prior to series production.

Pricing Factors

Powder gradeHigher purity/sphericity comes at a premium
Lot sizeEconomy of scale savings at 500+ kg
Certification levelFull certification vs batch testing
Atomization methodNitrogen > Air due to higher consistency and lower oxides
Regional logisticsSource locally if possible

Expect pricing around $50-100/kg for lower size distribution aluminium AM powder delivered. Larger manufacturers offer economies of scale.

Buying Considerations

Quality complianceHigh
Sampling availabilityHigh
Technical expertiseMedium
Customer referencesMedium

Vendor Comparison

ManufacturerSize RangeQualityConsistencyLead TimesPricing
[Brand 1]10-45 μmFully certifiedVery consistent12-14 weeks$$$
[Brand 2]15-65 μmBatch testingMinor variation3-4 weeks$
[Brand 3]10-63 μmIndependent MPIMeets minimum specs8-10 weeks$$

Choose leading brand aligned to quality compliance needs of part application even if at a pricing premium to avoid defect and property deviation risks.

3d printer aluminum powder


Q: What particle size is optimal for aluminum laser powder bed fusion?

A: 25-45 μm aluminum powder size fractions facilitate dense packing with good shear and melt flow response ideal for spreading and high density fusion in powder bed applications.

Q: How should aluminum AM powder be stored properly?

A: Seal containers air-tight with moisture absorbing bags to prevent oxidation and stabilization limiting shelf life to 6-12 months if properly stored cool out of direct sunlight.

Q: Does aluminum powder for metal AM require special handling precautions?

A: Classified as non-hazardous but use powders in well ventilated areas with approved PPE as fine metallic particulate carries respiratory health and dust explosion risks requiring safety protocols be established.

Q: What post processing is typically done on additively manufactured aluminum parts?

A: Aluminum AM parts often undergo solution treatment, aging precipitation hardening, passivation and electropolishing to relieve residual stresses, enhance mechanical properties and surface finish. Protective coatings improve corrosion and wear resistance.

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