Find your Cinderella additive manufacturing powder with morphological analysis

Find your Cinderella additive manufacturing powder with morphological analysis

When Prince Charming tried to find Cinderella, all he had was a shoe. Traveling through the kingdom, every foot had to be tried for the right fit. Additive manufacturing (AM) has its own Cinderella story: the quest for new materials to serve as powders in powder bed fusion. The perfect material would be sustainable, abundant, and able to consistently create a dense and uniform powder bed.

To create this ideal bed, you need a highly flowable powder. And flowability is influenced by multiple factors: size, electrostatic charge, moisture, density, surface properties – and in particular, shape. But how can you know which atomized materials will have the perfect morphological characteristics without running test after test? How else but try the shoe on every foot of the kingdom?

A more elegant solution with morphological analysis

A more efficient solution lies in morphological analysis using a particle sizing instrument – such as Malvern Panalytical’s Morphologi 4. This instrument provides a comprehensive description of the morphological properties of particulate materials like metal or polymer powders. Combining particle size measurements with shape assessments, the Morphologi 4 is compatible with spherical and irregularly shaped particles. Users can also classify particles into morphological groups, greatly enhancing the process of identifying and quantifying specific particle characteristics.

Collaborating to find the perfect fit

But there’s one problem: while there is already an established particle size range for the powder bed fusion process, this is not yet the case for other morphological characteristics. That’s why we decided to partner with the Materials Processing Institute (MPI). Together, we advocate for the AM community to establish standardized indices for ranking powders based on shape descriptors – and develop tools to enable this.

“Collaborating with institutes like the Materials Processing Institute allows us to better understand user requirements, informing our product and application development processes,” says Jenny Burt, Malvern Panalytical Senior Applications Specialist. “It also helps us discover new application areas, benefiting other customers in similar fields.”

Indeed, MPI has created a methodology for using the Morphologi 4’s functionalities to predict powder performance before the laser powder bed fusion process. They’ve also developed the Morflow index, which determines powder suitability for re-coating based on morphology and size. With predictability key to powder reusability, these tools are a valuable way to assess an AM material’s sustainability. You could think of it as knowing whether the shoe would fit before needing to try it on.

Exciting prospects for future research

And the quest has only just begun: comprehensive morphological characterization has unlocked promising research prospects. For example, ongoing research aims to quantify the correlation between physical properties like flowability and final part quality. And with software like Morphologi 4-ID, researchers can combine morphological analysis with additional chemical identification and contaminant detection and analysis.

One thing’s for sure: with morphological analysis, finding the Cinderella material is much more straightforward – and saves Prince Charming an awful lot on travel expenses.

To find out more about our collaboration with MPI, read our joint interview with TCT here – and follow our Advanced Materials LinkedIn page to stay updated on all our additive manufacturing solutions!