The production and properties of steel powders for PM, MIM, and AM were discussed by leading producers in a Special Interest Program of oral presentations at the POWDERMET2019 and AMPM conferences in Phoenix.

In a rare event, key personalities from the three leading ferrous powder producers shared the podium in a Special Interest Program at the MPIF POWDERMET2019 and AMPM conferences in Phoenix to give their companies’ perspectives on the production of iron and steel powders for additive manufacturing as well as for PM compacting and injection molding.

First off was Christopher Schade, Director of Advanced Materials Development at GKN Hoeganaes. He gave a clear picture of the prospects for the metal AM market from the viewpoint of a large-scale steel powder producer. He said that so far, metal AM was still a low-volume market. Hoeganaes continued to receive many requests for AM steel powders that were very varied in composition, mostly for research projects, some with very short lead-times that did not allow enough time to develop the product. The AM market was something like the MIM market of 20–30 years ago. There was now beginning to be a larger focus on structural parts, e.g. from the automotive industry, and for low-alloy steel powders, versus earlier interest in (Titanium) aerospace applications. The auto manufacturers were looking for high-volume production, similar to PM, and wanted to know if there would be enough powder supply in the future to support serial production.

The next aspect Schade referred to was the requirement of specific powder characteristics such as particle size for each AM process. For example, the binder-jet process uses powders of zero to 20 µ in size, while LPBF could use 10–45 or 20–60 µ, and so on (Fig. 1). Discarding of the unusable fractions of particle size could raise the cost of powder by up to two-thirds.

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