In the first blog of our series, about gas in additive manufacturing (AM), we look at how to optimise the way you produce powder.

In additive manufacturing (AM), you get out what you put in. To produce a great part, you need powder made up of particles of the right size, shape, density and composition.

At the same time, it’s a commercial process, so you need to be able to justify costs.

Finding the right balance

This balance of cost and quality is at the heart of how you choose to atomise your powder. At one end of the scale is water atomisation. This is one of the cheapest ways to create powder, however the quality of the powder can be poor. This is because the process can produce irregular parts or satellites. It can also introduce unwanted chemicals into your powder – like oxides or hydroxides. The result is uneven layers of powder which affect the part quality.

At the other end of the scale is plasma atomisation. This produces very high-quality powder with near perfect spheres. The drawback? It is prohibitively expensive for a lot of businesses.

The good news is there is an alternative, which creates powder of excellent quality, at a lower cost than plasma. This is gas atomisation. Plasma can claim to produce slightly more accurate spheres. But the results with gas are nearly as good, providing excellent flowability. Gas also achieves very low levels of contamination, which is key to the condition of your final parts.

Combine it with sieving, packaging and analysing, and gas atomisation will give you a powder you can use to make outstanding parts.

Optimising the process

Gas atomisation helps manufacturers hit the sweet spot for price and performance. This makes it an ideal choice for creating powder in an economical way.

Of course, once you’ve made your powder, you want to preserve the quality and keep it in top condition. So, it’s critical to store it carefully. This is where a purpose-built powder cabinet can make the difference. Through on-demand gas purges, it can maintain the right atmosphere. This gives you powder that spreads well on the powder bed, as well as great flowability during production.

Above are just a couple of the key roles that gas can play in optimising additive manufacturing.

If you would like a demo of how gas can enhance the way you produce, handle and store additive manufacturing powders, please get in touch.

Or, to read how you can use gas to enhance production, take a look at the next blog in this series.

Tanja Arunprasad, Linde Global Additive Manufacturing Expert