Additive Manufacturing: Physical Characterization of Powders

Additive manufacturing (AM) offers the flexibility to produce unique, innovative designs, inaccessible with conventional production methods, and opportunities for cost-efficient bespoke manufacturing. These defining features, in combination with advantages such as low waste, make additive manufacturing attractive to a broad range of industries. Aerospace, automotive, medical and even pharmaceutical applications are now well-established.

The advance of additive manufacturing now relies heavily on the development of appropriate feedstocks. Many industrial additive manufacturing processes utilize powder feeds - metals, polymer, ceramics, and in the case of pharmaceuticals, unique formulations. Securing, broadening and for certain industries validating the powder supply chains is critical. Effective specification setting underpins such efforts and is essential for the differentiation of suppliers, for the reliable qualification of feedstocks (as required) and for the development of robust powder recycling strategies. In a single pass of a printing process only minimal amounts of powder are incorporated into the printed component; powder recycling is vital for economic, sustainable operation.

Micromeritics offers a comprehensive portfolio of analytical solutions for the physical characterization of additive manufacturing powders that extends to systems for measuring:

  • Particle size
  • Particle shape
  • Density
  • Surface area
  • Powder flow
  • Surface morphology
  • Porosity

These instruments provide detailed, repeatable and highly sensitive results that in combination elucidate how an additive manufacturing powder:

  • Will flow within a printer – whether the spreading process will be consistent and of the required quality
  • Will pack and form layers that allow sintering, melting or binding of the individual particles to a finished product with the required properties
  • Can be processed and/or blended for reuse

They can also be used to assess the properties of finished components.

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Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing (AM) and its continuing evolution offers substantial potential benefits to industry and promises to write the newest chapter in the industrial revolution.

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Particle Size

One of the most critical attributes for control, particle size is essential to the additive manufacturing process. Particle size distribution has a direct influence on powder flowability and the ability to provide a uniform, powder bed density.

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Density

True density is an inherent property of a material, whilst apparent density takes account of occluded voids within a material.

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Surface Area

The actual amount of surface area per unit mass of powder is of great importance. Surface area indicates the amount of sample surface available to react with other component particles and / or the surrounding environment.

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