Equispheres’ breakthrough atomization technique was engineered for the AM industry to produce powder with ideal properties for additive manufacturing. These include uniform size, sphericity, and consistent microstructure — as well as smoother surface and thinner oxide layer — resulting in more rapidly manufactured metal parts with superior mechanical properties.
Economic and Performance Advantages:
Perhaps the most exciting advantage of Equispheres powder is its ability to significantly reduce the cost of production. Because the powder packs densely and lays in a uniform grade, it absorbs the laser energy evenly and efficiently. This enables operators to spread thicker powder layers, which increases the vertical build speed and allows increased scan speed and hatch distances that improve the horizontal print speeds. These are multiplicative factors improve build rates by a factor of 2 to 4.
AM printers are expensive devices, and the expense of the machine must be amortized across the volume of parts produced. Because printers produce parts slowly, the print process constitutes most of the cost in part production. Therefore, increasing the speed of production by 4 times can achieve a dramatic 50% cost savings in part production.
The physical properties of Equispheres’ powders increase the mean performance of manufactured parts in standard mechanical tests. More importantly, the predictability of the near-perfect powder narrows the distribution curve of results and significantly increases minimum performance. As a result, you can engineer metal parts for higher design-allowable performance, and count on greater consistency in all builds, which will enable the manufacture of lighter, stronger, high-performance components. Imagine the possibilities!
The combination of high-speed 3D printing by binder jet processes and aluminum alloys for lightweight parts will be a game-changer for the automotive sector. Until recently, this additive manufacturing technique was not feasible with aluminum alloys.
Equispheres has conducted extensive testing with McGill University to confirm that its aluminum alloy powders are well suited to sintering with binder jet technology.
“The unique and tailored attributes of Equispheres powder have proven exceptional in compaction-free sintering,” says Dr. Mathieu Brochu, Associate Professor at McGill and Canada Research Chair in Pulse Processing of Nanostructured Materials.
The research found that compaction-free, sub-solidus sintering of Equispheres’ standard AlSi10Mg aluminum alloy powder is feasible. The material provides good densification and excellent microstructure.
Equispheres understands that different applications require different powders. That’s why we offer three separate lines of product to support a wide range of customer requirements.
- Equispheres Performance™ – Powder designed to provide enhanced printed part strength and performance across a wide range of applications and achieves a 20-30% increase in the a-basis design allowable over traditional powders.
- Equispheres Precision™ – Powder designed to support applications where fine features and precision (as related to CAD design) are of paramount importance. This powder has proven to provide a 50 % improvement in dimensional accuracy.
- Equispheres Production™ – powder designed to reduce the cost per part manufactured, with features designed to facilitate the rapid production of items without compromising mechanical performance. We are working on parameter sets to increase production speeds by 3 to 4 times.
In powder bed additive manufacturing, round and smooth particles move more freely than the irregular shaped particles with unwanted microscopic fines (ø: 0.1–5µm) found in standard atomized powder that tend to clump and prevent uniform layer deposition. Equispheres’ powder is spherical, agglomerate- and fine-free, and rolls smoothly under the powder bed blade/roller for greatly improved spreadability. The result: a final product with superior surface finish and better mechanical properties.
The minimal fines in our powders significantly increase flowability. Recent testing conducted by McGill University identified that Equispheres’ powder flows 2.5 times faster than competitive powders (using standard flow test techniques).
Irregular particles and “fines” interfere with packing density. Equispheres’ powders pack much more densely and uniformly than those of competitors. Because Equispheres’ powder is highly flowable, achieved density in “real-world” powder bed (i.e. spread density) is virtually identical to “tap” density achieved in the laboratory and 30% better than competitive powders. This allows the production of denser parts with smoother as-built surfaces.
A common problem with metal powders has been the thickness of the oxide layer. While a thicker oxide layer results in poor mechanical properties in the final manufactured part, a powder with thinner oxide layers tends to adsorb water, which also has a negative impact on part performance.
However, Equispheres’ powders have both a thin oxide layer and low water adsorption — a direct result of the superior morphology of our powder.
Independent lab testing by McGill University has shown that Equispheres’ powders have an oxide layer half as thick as its competitors, but with one-third the water adsorption.
The result is less powder preparation prior to printing and superior product performance.
Equispheres’ novel atomization process is highly controlled and generates a very fine microstructure, with uniform particle sizes. Competing powders include particles of various sizes. When their powders are melted by the laser used in additive manufacturing, the smaller particles cool faster than the larger ones, producing an inconsistent microstructure.
Equispheres’ powder melts and solidifies uniformly and predictably. The result is a final product rapidly and with consistent and superior mechanical properties.
Fine metal powder particles are more than just a nuisance in the manufacturing process — they can be dangerously explosive. Equispheres’ powders have a minimal quantity of fines and are therefore much safer to handle. This can simplify the complexity and reduce the costs of safety equipment normally required when dealing with certain metal powder alloys.
Equispheres aluminum alloys have a Dust explosion classification of ST-1 (Weak to moderate explosion).
Take advantage of our powder
Looking for more stats? Download an overview of Performance Data for AlSi10Mg to get additional technical detail.
Ready to give our powder a try? Work closely with Applications Engineering support services to quickly transition from your current materials and fully benefit from the lower costs and superior performance our powder can offer. We offer starter program packages to expedite the process of powder qualification and process optimization for your unique performance and production requirements.