Linde intends on doing some deep research on powder materials for 3D printing.
The Irish company is a large chemical company that specializes in industrial gas production and distribution. Recently they’ve taken an interest in additive manufacturing operations because many PBF systems require gas supplies: oxygen must be purged from the build chamber to avoid contamination, and this is typically done by flushing with nitrogen or argo gas.
In the past I’ve spoken with them about their research on oxygen contamination, where they have developed advanced monitoring systems that increase print quality through gas analysis.
Now they seem to be digging deeper into additive manufacturing processes with the announcement of a new research lab dedicated to powder manufacturing.
You might not know that gas is a critical element in the production of metal powders for additive manufacturing. The usual process is to blow molten metal through a nozzle into a chamber where it atomizes. As the metal quickly cools, it forms into solid droplet that become the powder. The trick is to manage the feeds, speeds and temperatures of the process in such a way as to produce powder of a consistent diameter.
Linde explains their approach:
“The focal point of Linde’s new laboratory will be a much smaller scale version (1.60 meters high) of a typical atomizer with specially adapted windows, lighting, high-speed cameras and schlieren imaging allowing for surveillance and data capture of each change of gas parameter. It will not rely on the introduction of molten metal, instead using data from the simulated process to provide evidence of gas behaviour under certain conditions. The different parameters to be assessed include gas type, volume of gas, pressure and temperature, with the miniature atomizer able to rapidly switch over to analyze hundreds of combinations within minutes.”
The idea is to be able to freely experiment with all the necessary parameters through iteration to develop optimal approaches for powder production. Linde will supply gases used in the process, and hopes to help users scale up their powder manufacturing processes.
Linde intends on working with powder manufacturers and OEMs to use the lab in this way, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to benefit.
The outcome of this lab could be improved quality powder for use in additive manufacturing operations.