In recent years, 3D printing has become a hot technology that has attracted much attention. It uses "printing materials" such as plastics and metals to be manufactured into physical objects by stacking and printing layer by layer, and its application fields are becoming more and more extensive. Among many "printing materials", metal powder materials have huge advantages and development prospects. Among them, spherical titanium and titanium alloy powders for 3D printing used in aviation, aerospace, and medical equipment have always been manufactured due to extremely high technical difficulties.
Titanium metal has the characteristics of light weight, high strength, and corrosion resistance. In recent years, with the development of global 3D printing technology, seemingly unremarkable titanium and titanium alloy powders have become key materials required in the field of 3D printing of metal parts. 3D printing is a very comprehensive industry, involving multiple disciplines, including metallurgy, chemical engineering, materials, etc. The research and development process is very difficult, and it can only be developed, explored, and adjusted. The biggest advantage of 3D printing is that there is no need to open molds. Some complex products, such as special-shaped parts and structural parts, can be directly realized through 3D printing. At present, titanium and titanium alloy spherical powder products are mainly used in aviation, aerospace, medical equipment, biomedicine and other industries, such as some important parts of aircraft and spacecraft, and printing human teeth, bones, medical implants, etc.
For laser 3D printing, which is relatively mature for printing high-precision metal parts, spherical titanium powder of 15 to 53 microns is required. Now, the project team mainly focuses on this aspect.
Spherical titanium powder for 3D printing in reality
The titanium rod is heated by the induction coil to melt the titanium rod, and then the melted liquid titanium is "broken" by the high-pressure gas. In this way, the titanium is broken into small droplets and solidified into a round powder. Such a production method, called electrode induction gas atomization, is currently one of the main methods for industrialized production of titanium alloy powder in the world. One characteristic of titanium is that it cannot be packed in crucibles because it will be contaminated. Difficulties in the production process, one is the gas atomization and the stability of the equipment, and the other is the fluidity of the powder. To this end, the team spent a long time on the main research and development, and solved these problems one by one.
As far as the current market is concerned, the price of spherical titanium powder is about 230 to 300 US dollar per kilogram, which has a bright future. However, although the research institute has achieved mass production and its products have been recognized by customers, the current stage is still focusing on scientific research, and it is necessary to further improve product quality and gradually realize industrialization. With the continuous deepening of research and development, this industry will eventually break the foreign technology blockade. In the future, 3D printing will be applied to more fields and benefit more people.
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