Global Advanced Metals: spheroidization improves metal 3D printing powders

Feb 15, 2018 | By Benedict

Global Advanced Metals, a producer of tantalum products with locations in the US, Australia, and Japan, is setting up Tekna TEKSPHERO plasma spheroidization equipment at its plant in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. The spherical powders it produces will be used for additive manufacturing.

As an FDM desktop 3D printer user, “spheroidization” is not a term you desperately need to know, since it refers to a process of metal powder processing used to produce 3D printable metal powders.

In the industrial additive manufacturing world, however, spheroidization is a big deal.

Using high-energy plasma gas, the process provides control over the shape and diameter of particles, which can provide positive knock-on effects for manufacturing processes like additive manufacturing. The more uniform the particles size throughout a batch of metal powder, the more smoothly it can be processed. (You’d be hesitant to use a spool of filament whose diameter fluctuated dramatically along its length, and in this sense powders are no different.)

Global Advanced Metals, a specialist in tantalum production, is now installing Tekna TEKSPHERO plasma spheroidization equipment at its plant in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, as part of a new process development facility for the manufacture of spherical tantalum, as well as other refractory metal powders for advanced additive manufacturing and metal injection molding.

Producing spherical powders from a variety of tantalum feed materials, the new spheroidization gear can produce particle sizes in the 10 to 100 micron range, in both narrow or broad particle size distributions. Oxygen content is in the range of 600 to 1000 ppm as standard, but the equipment can also handle low oxygen (< 250 ppm) options.

“Our new process development facility enables us to create spherical tantalum powders that can be used for 3D printing of prototypes and commercial parts,” said Andrew O’Donovan, chief executive officer of Global Advanced Metals. “The ability to rapidly prototype and produce complex tantalum parts via additive manufacturing offers designers new materials choices for applications in military, aerospace, medical and other demanding industries.”

Global Advanced Materials isn’t the only company taking advantage of the 3D printing industry to boost its spherical metal powder production business. After a 13-year hiatus, clean-tech company PyroGenesis recently returned to the powder production game in order to supply spherical titanium powders to additive manufacturing clients.

Other companies making spherical powders for 3D printing include Canada’s Equispheres and Japan’s Osaka Titanium.

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

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