PyroGenesis, a Montreal-based company with experience in advanced plasma processes and products has figured a way out to reduce the manufacturing costs of spherical powder particles for use as metal AM. The European Patent Office has issued its intent to grant the company a patent for the so-called “Plasma Apparatus for the Production of High Quality Powders at High Capacity”, which like all good patent applications titles is fairly descriptive of what it does. In addition, the patent application itself contains a sketch of the system to give you some further idea of how it all works.

For clarity, let’s summarise the main steps.

As you can see in the drawing the process starts with a wire feedstock (titanium) which is fed through an induction coil for preheating the wire.

The heated wire is then passed through a plasma torch flame turning the wire into droplets which are passed through an aperture plate and into the reactor area. Here it falls as it cools into a powder, where it is passed through a cyclone and finally deposited into a collection container as the finished spherical powder.

So why develop this method in the first place?

Well, the demands on the production of high quality spherical metal powders are increasing, with the bulk of such powders going to the AM sector.

As the resolution and capability of metal AM systems increases, so do the quality requirements of the metal feedstocks they use.

Traditionally made powders can suffer from uneven particle sizes and the appearance of satellite particles, which are smaller particles randomly sticking out of the main particles.

The technology stated in the patent aims to provide a simple (read: cost effective) device for the production of high quality spherical particles with a more predictable size distribution. This predictability will enhance quality, and reduce the need to reject feedstock during manufacture, and also help to reduce costs to the end user.

Ultimately this will help the Canadian company provide the level of quality required for the AM industry.

This European patent will further strengthen our position as a leader in powder production not only in Europe, but world-wide, Mr. P. Peter Pascali, CEO and Chair of PyroGenesis

“We have seen a steady increase in demand for plasma atomized powders and not only with respect to titanium alloys. With an increased production rate and a higher yield, we can now open up new markets where materials that would normally have been too expensive to consider in additive manufacturing, can now be used economically.

This type of innovation not only secures PyroGenesis’ position as a powder producer but, in management’s opinion, significantly increases the overall market potential for PyroGenesis’ powder offerings.”

If you’d like to know more about the PyroGenesis method of plasma atomisation, you can read more about it on their website, or you can read the patent for more information, which is available here.