Additive manufacturing (AM) and its continuing evolution offers substantial potential benefits to industry and promises to write the newest chapter in the industrial revolution. AM, sometimes referred to as 3D printing, offers a vast improvement in manufacturing technology with its ability to produce complex designs on demand.
These designs include very intricate internal channels and elaborate lattices, providing superior strength to the product and greater single piece functionality, while substantially reducing weight as compared to traditional subtractive manufacturing methods.
Although traditional subtractive manufacturing processes such as CNC machining are more suited to higher volumes and are less expensive per part than AM, they work by removing material from a larger block to achieve the final desired form. These processes therefore can lead to a significant waste of material and importantly they lack key and revolutionary abilities that AM can offer such as the creation of hollow and porous products, the incorporation of two or more additional materials and fast prototyping.
AM builds components by powder bed fusion where powder is added in successive layers of multiple thin sheets of materials that are fused by laser or electron beams. Additive Manufacturing produces complex, high-value parts with intricate features, which cannot be fabricated through subtractive manufacturing methods. Additive manufacturing also has the benefit that parts can be made without tooling, and with the ability to go directly from a digital design to finished part. AM also produces very little waste when compared to subtractive processes. AM is ideal for fast, intricate, inexpensive prototyping.
The physical characteristics of powders used in additive manufacturing can have significant influence on process efficiencies, performance and the quality of the final products. The physical and chemical character of the powders used in AM, such as size, shape, surface area, porosity, and impurity content, are vitally important elements that effect, reproducibility and the quality of the process methodology. Determining the properties of powders used in a AM manufacturing is an absolute requirement for industry to assuredly elect raw material powders that will deliver build consistency and a final product with known and expected properties.