Forged metal objects appear seamless, simple items. But as the use of metals changed over time and constructions became more intricate with additive manufacturing, a new way of processing materials surfaced. Metal powder manufacturing replaces the classic blacksmithing techniques, reducing scrap waste in the meantime. The final metal products, however, retain that shiny allure of the archetypal metal pieces.
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Atomize molten metal to produce powder metallurgy
Metals with low melting points such as aluminum, brass, and iron are atomized into powders. The technique disintegrates the metal into solid droplets.
Melt the metal feed in a furnace and lead it through the narrow opening of the atomizer to form a thin stream. A jet of air or water within the chamber subjects the liquid metal to high pressure, splitting it into drops. The rapid reduction of temperature solidifies the material into a fine powder.
Obtain spongy particles by reducing oxygen in the raw material
Although new manufacturing processes were developed since metal powder production emerged in the 1940s, the traditional method is still applied. Solid-state reduction involves mixing crushed metal with carbon and passing through a continuous furnace.
The heat reduces the oxygen and carbon in the mixture and leaves a sponge metal. Mill the remaining material and sieve it to produce a homogeneous powder size.
React metals with a chemical solution to increase purity
One of the main drawbacks of solid-state reduction is that it has a lower threshold for impurities. To raise the purity rate, treat the material with a chemical agent.
React with a reducing agent to strip the metal of its electrons and form highly-adherent porous particles. Grind the resulting material into a finer powder and anneal it to obtain metal powder purity of up to 99.5%. Purity is particularly crucial for new high-tech industries like lithium-ion battery manufacturing.
Complete metal powder manufacturing with sintering
Metal powder blends are delivered for fabrication in the form of briquettes. Blend the alloys and materials in a mixer to ensure a uniform particle distribution. Then compact the mixture at a temperature lower than the melting point of the metals.
A widespread technique is sintering. Heating the mixture allows the atoms to diffuse and bond with those from other particles. This process establishes the green strength of the block.