Over the last century, commercial production of various metal powders has seen exceptional growth with wide ranging applications in a myriad of different industries such as the press- and sinter (P&S) industry, the hot isostatic pressing (HIP) industry as well as in newly emerging and high demanding industries like metal injection moulding or metal additive manufacturing (AM).
Each of these industries has different requirements on the metal powders and in turn on the powder production technology. While the powder processing industry has seen a rapid development of additive manufacturing technologies since the 1990’s (like LPBF, EBM, DED, just to name a few), the powder production industry has somehow become stagnant with respect to providing solutions for the newly emerging requirements and specifications of the required metal powders.
Today’s commercially available gas atomization systems were developed in the 1980’s and were mainly intended for use in industries such as HIP. The originally intended requirements for these powder batches (and their production technology) may not require the same specific quality as powders used in AM and as such their performance in an AM process may not be adequate or as expected. In addition to the respective powder size fraction and sphericity required by the AM industry, consistency in powder quality and purity is crucial which might be difficult to achieve using common production technology.
Based on the specific requirements of today’s metal powder industry as well as the latest insights in gas atomization theory, INTECO has developed the “next-generation” atomization system, adopting latest cutting-edge technology and know-how to the atomization process and setting new standards for the production of specialized metal powder for today’s highest demanding industries such as AM.
USPs of INTECO Design
- Tailor made system design based on requested powder specification
- Automated crucible tilting mechanism for controlled and constant metal pouring rate
- Precision pour control during atomization for improved pouring accuracy
- Novel atomization die design for highest powder yield
- Anti-satelliting design for increased powder flowability
- Efficient tundish heating system with orifice preheating and tundish cover
- Efficient powder recycling system for oxygen free charging of revert powder
- Excellent possibility for alloy development by charging, alloying, sampling and temperature measurement under vacuum or inert gas
- Innovative powder cooling system for quick cycle times
- Highest degree of process automation, monitoring and process observation as well as evaluation
- Easy maintenance and cleaning for quick & reliable change of grades to avoid contamination
- All critical parts made out of stainless steel material with grounded and smooth surfaces
- Excellent plant ergonomics and operator safety
- Industry’s first holistic process and production management system (IMAS) covering the complete powder production and documentation process
Since the development of the patented Electro Slag Heating (ESH) process in the 1980’s INTECO has played a major role in the development of today’s state of the art production process for tool steel powder. The trend towards an increasing tundish size to accommodate the whole liquid metal before atomization creates the necessity for a suitable tundish heating system in order to maintain constant metal temperature over a long period of time before and during atomization. The result of this process is powder of highest cleanliness (e.g. low non-metallic inclusions) with constant properties throughout the whole atomization process.
INTECO is the only company which has the technology and process know how for the complete production process including melting, electro-slag heating, gas atomization as well as powder encapsulation for the subsequent hot isostatic pressing (HIP) process.
For the production of specialty powder such as nickel and cobalt base powder the gas atomization method has been recognized as the predominant production technology. INTECO’s design solutions are focussed on highest powder quality and powder yield in order to satisfy the requirements of the highest demanding industries such as additive manufacturing (AM).
INTECO has developed the “next-generation” gas atomization system, dedicated to today’s requirements and pushing production yield and powder performance to the next level.