In the powder bed laser melting technology, from the production, transportation, storage, printing and recycling of materials, the powder has been under a variety of mechanical and atmospheric environments throughout the process chain, the chemical composition and shape of the powder particles, and the entire process. The characteristics of powder materials may be affected by factors such as the atmosphere, temperature, humidity, and external forces. This article discusses the potentially important influencing factors of TC4 powder in the entire process. The research results can be used in other powder processing and management to ensure the quality of the material throughout the service life and make the SLM process more robust and reliable.
In order to evaluate the characteristics and batch stability of the powder, the same specifications and two batches produced by TC4-Ti6Al4V(level 5) three different processes (gas atomization EIGA, plasma atomization PA, inductively coupled plasma atomization ICPA) were studied. For powders, the particle size distribution, particle morphology and fluidity of these powders were measured.
The results show that the sizes of the three powder particles are between 15-65 microns, with a Gaussian distribution, but the PA and ICPA powders show a wider particle size distribution compared with the EIGA powder. The flow time measured by the Hall flowmeter is in the range of 14.6s-16.1s, indicating that all powders and batches have good flowability. Electron microscopy results show that the three powders have high spherical shapes, but the EIGA powder particles are slightly elongated, while the ICPA powder contains a lot of satellite powder.
In order to study whether argon protection is required during powder storage, two powder containers were stored under the same conditions of 30°C and 30% relative humidity. One container has been stored intact, and the protective atmosphere of the other container is destroyed by one opening process. After a storage period of ten days, samples for mechanical testing and elemental measurement were prepared.
The results of the tensile test show that the ultimate tensile strength of the sample is basically the same in a protective atmosphere and an unprotected atmosphere; the powder stored in a humid environment has the highest ultimate strength, which is slightly higher than that of the dry powder printed sample 5%, and the elongation rate dropped severely. Gas content measurement confirmed that in a humid environment, the oxygen content of the sample is about 10% higher than that in a dry environment, which leads to material embrittlement.
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