Stainless Steel Powders for Additive Manufacturing

Table of Contents

Stainless steel powders enable complex geometry printing using additive techniques unmatched by conventional metal manufacturing. This guide covers alloy variants, particle specifications, properties data, pricing insights and comparisons to inform stainless powder procurement.

Introduction to Stainless Steel Powders

Key capabilities offered by stainless steel powders:

  • Fabricate complex, lightweight components
  • Achieve superior corrosion resistance
  • Enable rapid prototyping and customization

Common alloys used include:

  • 304L – Cost effective with excellent corrosion resistance
  • 316L – Superb corrosion resistance with molybdenum addition
  • 17-4PH – High strength, hardest stainless powder

This guide provides considerations when selecting stainless powders:

  • Alloy Compositions and Production Methods
  • Mechanical Properties Test Data
  • Particle Size Distribution Recommendations
  • Morphology, Flow Rate and Apparent Density
  • Supplier Price Ranges Based on Volumes
  • Corrosion Resistance Comparisons
  • Pros vs Cons Relative to Solid Barstock
  • FAQs on Printing Parameter Optimization
stainless steel powders

Stainless Steel Powder Compositions

Table 1 shows stainless steel powder alloy compositions by primary elemental additions with some variation across powder manufacturers:

AlloyMajor Alloying Elements
304LCr, Ni
316LCr, Ni, Mo
17-4PHCr, Ni, Cu

Carbon is restricted (≤0.03%) in 304L and 316L to prevent carbide precipitation and maintain corrosion resistance and weldability.

Higher carbon in 17-4PH increases strength through martensitic hardening heat treatments.

Mechanical Properties and Test Methods

Table 2 shows typical minimum mechanical properties met by stainless steel powders, with actual values varying based on build geometry, post-processing, and heat treatment selection:

AlloyYield StrengthTensile StrengthTest Method
304L290 MPa540 MPaASTM E8
316L290 MPa540 MPaASTM E8
17-4PH1140 MPa1275 MPaASTM E8

Carefully review test data reports to ensure procured powder lots meet certification specs and application requirements prior to high volume purchasing commitments.

Stainless Steel Powder Particle Size Recommendations

Table 3 shows common particle size distribution categories used to classify stainless steel powders:

Size RangeTypical MeshCommon Printing Range
Extra Fine-325 mesh15-45 micron
Fine-230 +400 mesh32-63 micron
Standard-170 +325 mesh44-105 micron

Other key powder characteristics:

  • Spherical morphology
  • Satellite free smooth surface
  • Apparent density >90% of true density
  • Hall flowmeter rates >30 seconds for 50 grams

For printing parameters, 25-45 micron mean size provides a robust starting point with good resolution and flowability.

Powder Morphology, Flow Rate and Density

Table 4 compares powder characteristics across general quality tiers that impact printing process stability:

ParameterPremium PowderEntry-level Powder
MorphologyHighly sphericalJagged, irregular shapes
Flow RateHall flow > 30s for 50gHall flow < 25s for 50g
Apparent Density> 90% true densityOften <80% true density
Moisture Content<0.01%>0.02%

Poor powder flow and density require extra parameter adjustments to achieve print quality, affecting productivity. Request hall flow seconds and density data from suppliers.

Stainless Steel Powder Pricing

Table 5 outlines rough pricing estimates for common stainless steel powders under normal market conditions:

Order VolumePrice Estimate
10 kg$100+/kg
100 kg$50+/kg
500+ kg$30+/kg
1000+ kgSubkey discounts
  • Bulk discounts beyond 500-1000 kg
  • Actual prices fluctuate relative to raw material costs
  • Carefully review true yields vs “good” powder
  • Low prices often indicate poor consistency

Compare price lists but focus evaluations on test data quality to identify best value propositions aligning with print process capabilities.

Stainless Steel Powder Corrosion Resistance

Table 6 compares corrosion resistance across common alloys:

AlloyTypical Environments
304LGood general chemical resistance suitable for mild corrosive conditions
316LExcellent corrosion performance for harsh environments with chlorides and acids
17-4PHModerate corrosion resistance with lower chromium, nickel content

Molybdenum enhances pitting and crevice corrosion resistance in 316L powder. Higher chromium also boosts passivity.

Carefully select alloys optimized for intended operating environments based on chemicals, concentration, pH and temperatures expected during service life.

Pros vs Cons: Powder vs Solid Barstock

Table 7

Stainless Steel PowderComplex shapesHigher cost
Great corrosion resistance propertiesPost-processing
LightweightingPrint parameter optimization
Stainless Steel Solid BarCost effectiveShape limits
AvailabilityMuch heavier
MachinabilityMaterial waste

In general, stainless steel powder justifies higher prices for low volume complex components where corrosion resistance and weight reduction are vital. Bar forms offer affordability for simple shapes in high production use cases.

stainless steel powders


Table 8 – Common questions:

Should I review test reports?Yes, scrutinize powder certification data thoroughly
What size powder particles should I start with?25-45 micron for robust printing
What factors impact consistency?Raw powder production technique affects variability
How much powder should I buy initially?Start small scale to validate print process

Table 9 – Application-focused advice:

How should I adjust parameters for printing food-grade stainless equipment?Optimize for low surface roughness and eliminate crevices
What post-processing can reduce porosity for marine parts?Consider hot isostatic pressing to maximize corrosion resistance
Which alloy maximizes yield strength for load-bearing components?17-4PH precipitation-hardened stainless
What stainless powder is optimal for high-temperature furnace parts?316L powder offers excellent oxidation resistance

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