What is Plasma Atomization?

What is Plasma Atomization?

Jan 22nd 2022

Plasma Atomization is a relatively new technology that first entered the commercial sphere in 1998. It was created to help with the production of fine particle distribution in high purity reactive powder like titanium. Its use is specialized, but it's an invaluable tool for deriving metal powders and, subsequently, additive manufacturing or 3D printing.

Knowing about the process, including plasma spray and the benefits that this technique yields, is vital for understanding the different materials you choose from for additive manufacturing. In this guide, we’re going to cover all the information you need to know before you make your purchase.

Background

Plasma spray and atomization were introduced as methods for getting powders from pure, dense materials like nickel or titanium. Before this, there was no proper technique for deconstructing these materials. Their purity and density make them impossible to break down through conventional means.

Ironically, that durability was why they were such sought-after manufacturing materials in the first place. Atomization was thought of as a potentially strong enough method to finally break down these materials without sacrificing their integrity. Many companies attempted to refine the process, but it wasn’t until 1998 that it was widely available to the industry.

The Process

The process as we know it now is called Advanced Plasma Atomization (APA). Using lasers and plasma spray to get the best results possible from titanium, zirconium, tungsten, tantalum, molybdenum, nickel, niobium, and alloys of those metals. Advanced production methods with lasers and plasma reduce them to highly spherical particles that have the flexibility to be reconstructed in many different ways while still retaining the strength of the metals.

Once the process was perfected, these powders became industry-recognized as some of the best. They are now used commonly for additive manufacturing, thermal and cold spray coatings, metal injection molding, and more.

Technical Information

Metal spheres

The products you get through atomization and plasma spray can range in size between 0 and 250 µm. Many different products will fall in a range between these values. The size will be the average, as it can be difficult to break down the metals to a specific size.

Generally, these differences are small enough that there won’t be a difference in the capability of the material. However, you can get tailored particle size distribution if you specifically request it. Different metals will have different properties, so to learn the most you can your best bet is to research different products closely.

Need More Help?

We’ve done a general breakdown of what plasma atomization and spray are, but there is much more to this highly technical process. If you want to know the most you can, our metal powders have specification sheets available that can let you know if they use an APA process and how.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have questions or want to know more. Once you’ve done your research, go ahead and check out our products at KBM. We can get you fine metal powders shipped within just 1-2 days.

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