PyroGenesis Additive, a division of PyroGenesis Canada Inc., Montreal, Canada, reports that it has developed a new plasma-based process to produce metal powders which will enable MIM cut powder production at higher volumes. According to the company, the new process may have a greater impact on the powder production market than its original plasma atomisation technology, developed in 2001.
‘MIM cut’ is a particularly small metal powder size traditionally used for Metal Injection Moulding and usually features particle sizes between 5-20 microns. In recent years, MIM cut metal powders have become increasingly used in Binder Jet Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) systems. Among those companies using MIM cut powders for metal AM are Desktop Metal and ExOne.
PyroGenesis has previously produced powders for Electron Beam Melting (EBM) Additive Manufacturing and Laser Sintering, while MIM cut has until recently been considered an undesirable by-product of the company’s standard plasma atomisation process, which produces powders in the 15-106 micron range.
Peter Pascali, President and CEO of PyroGenesis, explained the shift from by-product to lucrative offering. “Several months ago, the company was approached by a number of companies who were interested in MIM cut titanium powder, whereby it became apparent to us that the appetite for this ultra-fine powder was significant. As a result, we decided to make adjustments to our plasma atomisation technology in order to try and shift the particle size distribution towards the low end of the spectrum, and produce powders in the range required [for binder jet AM].”
According to Pascali, the new plasma atomisation process gives the company significant control over powder sizes produced and offers higher powder production rates at lower cost. “MIM cut powders can now be produced in very large quantities with little-to-no waste,” he stated, “thereby growing with and enabling those requiring ultra-fine powder and meeting their strategic growth needs.”
“We believe this breakthrough is, if not more significant, then at least as significant as our original plasma atomisation technology,” he added. “We believe we have not even scraped the surface of what this new process can do with regard to production rates and powder quality.”
According to Pascali, PyroGenesis Additive now produces MIM cut titanium powder Grade 5, the grade currently requested for use in Binder Jet AM. The new process also has the potential to produce MIM cut titanium powder at Grade 23, the highest grade titanium powder, he reported, though this is not yet confirmed.