Powder Technology, Vol.383, 30-42, 2021
Impact of atomization gas on characteristics of austenitic stainless steel powder feedstocks for additive manufacturing
Given the complexity of the laser-material interactions prevalent in powder bed fusion additive manufacturing, the need for tight control of alloy composition in the metal powder feedstock is leading to the use of specific gases during atomization. These changes in atomization gas also impact powder flow and packing. In order to identify the magnitude of this impact, two nitrogen atomized and one argon atomized 316 L austenitic stainless steel powders with similar size distributions were characterized using traditional powder characterization tools and rotating drum and annular shear rheological tools. While the traditional characterization tools and particle size measurements did not differentiate between the powders, these rheological tools allowed connections between the particle morphologies and rheological properties and powder performance to be identified. In particular, the argon atomized powders displayed higher aspect ratios, which translate into more spherical morphologies, and improved flow, defined by lower avalanche angles, when tested in the rotating drum. On the other hand, these differences in flow properties were not captured in the corresponding basic flow and specific energy measure-ments made with the annular shear tools. Variations in the powder packing properties and internal powder porosity in the different powder lots decreased the powder mass and introduced increased uncertainty in the force and torque measurements. The void spacing between loosely packed powders was also measured and showed how changes in particle size distribution and morphology impacted both packing density and permeability. Larger void spacing produced higher permeability values, indicating greater gas flow through the loosely packed powder. (C) 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.