A high-performance nanopowder facility for metal 3D printing

Scientists from the Department of Industrial Technologies of the Yurga Institute of Technology of Tomsk Polytechnic University are developing an advanced high-performance facility for the production of metal powders used for 3D printing. The TPU project has been recently supported by the Russian Science Foundation. 

According to the scientists, currently, in the world, an active development of additive technology and its industrial application are constrained by a number of factors. For instance, high cost of materials does not matter in the production of small details but when a product reaches a larger scale, a high price is an insurmountable obstacle. Only industrially developed countries now produce nanomaterials in commercial volumes.

‘In Russia, there is an acute need in domestic alloy powders, but there is no serial production of such materials inside the country. Enterprises are forced to purchase and use powders supplied by foreign manufacturers,’ notes the project leader, senior lecturer from the Department of Industrial Technologies Maksim Kuznetsov.

Annually facilities for additive production need about 20 tons of raw materials. Therefore Russian enterprises are interested in the low cost of produced powders that will enable to significantly increase the effectiveness of 3D printing of industrial products.’ 

The operation principle of the facility being developed by TPU scientists is based on the study of the effect of the vortex plasma flows of heterogeneous plasma on a material and synchronized high-frequency effects on the electrode. The facility will be equipped with a high-frequency magnetron for creating conditions for the formation of a flow of particles.

‘Our facility will have a number of fundamental advantages compared to other methods for the synthesis of nanosized powders. For example, it will be able to generate stainless, instrumental, heat-resistant, titanium and aluminum alloys, medical cobalt-chromium and titanium, as well as titanium oxide,’

explain the project participants.

According to them, the facility will produce spherical particles with a high content of dislocations (defects in the crystal and metal lattice) and with accumulated internal energy. This will significantly increase the chemical potential and provide conditions for high physicochemical activity of particles.

‘The facility implies thin and agile adjustment of process parameters and, accordingly, properties of produced nanopowders. It will enable to obtain a wide range of nanopowders of different metals and alloys which can be manufactured in the form of wire or foil. In some cases, it is possible to use a method of jets of molten metal,’ emphasize the specialists.

In addition, according to the TPU technology, the energy is introduced into the metal in a pulsed and volumetric manner, its consumption to heat the environment is small. Due to this, the energy costs of the method are substantially lower compared to alternative methods.

Currently, the scientists are working on mathematical modeling of the facility processes.

Scientists from the Siberian State Industrial University are also engaged in the project. The project is designed for 2018-2020 and implemented under the support of the RSF grant No. 18-79-10035.