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principles of powder metallurgy

Powder metallurgy is the process of blending fine powdered materials, pressing them into a desired shape (compacting), and then heating the compressed material in a controlled atmosphere to bond the material (sintering). The powder metallurgy process generally consists of four basic steps: (1) powder manufacture, (2) powder blending,(3) compacting, (4) sintering. Compacting is generally performed at room temperature, and the elevated-temperature process of sintering is usually conducted at atmospheric pressure. Optional secondary processing often follows to obtain special properties or enhanced precision.[1] Two main techniques used to form and consolidate the powder are sintering and metal injection molding. Recent developments have made it possible to use rapid manufacturing techniques which use the metal powder for the products. Because with this technique the powder is melted and not sintered, better mechanical strength can be accomplished.

Isostatic powder compacting


Isostatic powder compacting is a mass-conserving shaping process. Fine metal particles are placed into a flexible mould and then high gas or fluid pressure is applied to the mould. The resulting article is then sintered in a furnace. This increases the strength of the part by bonding the metal particles. This manufacturing process produces very little scrap metal and can be used to make many different shapes. The tolerances that this process can achieve are very precise, ranging from +/0.008 inches (0.2 mm) for axial dimensions and +/- 0.020 inches (5 mm) for radial dimensions. This is the most efficient type of powder compacting.(The following subcategories are also from this reference.)[7] This operation is generally applicable on small production quantities, as it is more costly to run due to its slow operating speed and the need for expendable tooling.poda[8] Compacting pressures range from 15,000 psi (100,000 kPa) to 40,000 psi (280,000 kPa) for most metals and approximately 2,000 psi (14,000 kPa) to 10,000 psi (69,000 kPa) for non-metals. The density of isostatic compacted parts is 5% to 10% higher than with other powder metallurgy processes.

Atomization
Atomization is accomplished by forcing a molten metal stream through an orifice at moderate pressures. A gas is introduced into the metal stream just before it leaves the nozzle, serving to create turbulence as the entrained gas expands (due to heating) and exits into a large collection volume exterior to the orifice. The collection volume is filled with gas to promote further turbulence of the molten metal jet. On Earth, air and powder streams are segregated using gravity or cyclonic separation. Most atomized powders are annealed, which helps reduce the oxide and carbon content. The water atomized particles are smaller, cleaner, and nonporous and have a greater breadth of size, which allows better compacting. Simple atomization techniques are available in which liquid metal is forced through an orifice at a sufficiently high velocity to ensure turbulent flow. The usual performance index used is the Reynolds number R = fvd/n, where f = fluid density, v = velocity of the exit stream, d = diameter of the opening, and n = absolute viscosity. At low R the liquid jet oscillates, but at higher velocities the stream becomes turbulent and breaks into droplets. Pumping energy is applied to droplet formation with very low efficiency (on the order of 1%) and control over the size distribution of the metal particles produced is rather poor. Other techniques such as nozzle vibration, nozzle asymmetry, multiple impinging streams, or molten-metal injection into ambient gas are all available to increase atomization efficiency, produce finer grains, and to narrow the particle size

distribution. Unfortunately, it is difficult to eject metals through orifices smaller than a few millimeters in diameter, which in practice limits the minimum size of powder grains to approximately 10 m. Atomization also produces a wide spectrum of particle sizes, necessitating downstream classification by screening and remelting a significant fraction of the grain boundary. Powder compaction Powder compaction is the process of compacting metal powder in a die through the application of high pressures. Typically the tools are held in the vertical orientation with the punch tool forming the bottom of the cavity. The powder is then compacted into a shape and then ejected from the die cavity.[7] In a number of these applications the parts may require very little additional work for their intended use; making for very cost efficient manufacturing. The density of the compacted powder is directly proportional to the amount of pressure applied. Typical pressures range from 80 psi to 1000 psi, pressures from 1000 psi to 1,000,000 psi have been obtained. Pressure of 10 tons/in to 50 tons/in are commonly used for metal powder compaction. To attain the same compression ratio across a component with more than one level or height, it is necessary to work with multiple lower punches. A cylindrical workpiece is made by single-level tooling. A more complex shape can be made by the common multiple-level tooling. Production rates of 15 to 30 parts per minutes are common. There are four major classes of tool styles: single-action compaction, used for thin, flat components; opposed double-action with two punch motions, which accommodates thicker components; double-action with floating die; and double action withdrawal die. Double action classes give much better density distribution than single action. Tooling must be designed so that it will withstand the extreme pressure without deforming or bending. Tools must be made from materials that are polished and wear-resistant. Better workpiece materials can be obtained by repressing and re-sintering.

Cold compaction
Cold compaction is a process in which powder is compressed at a temperature where deformation mechanics like dislocation or diffusional creep can be neglected. Cold compressing is the most important compaction method in powder metallurgy. It starts from bulk powders containing very small amounts and sometimes even no lubricant or binder additions. The compaction behavior of powders, expressed by their overall pressure density relations is shown in Fig 3. The controlling parameters are mainly particles size and the ability for plastic deformation. Densification starts form the apparent density, which is similar for the coarse iron and alumina powder, and which is not too far away from random dense packing for both of them. The fine powders exhibit a significantly lower starting density, due to hindered packing. With increasing pressure, the average density of the compact increases. The slope of the curves differs significantly for the ductile metal and non ductile alumina. This is due to the filling of inter-particle voids by large amount of plastic deformation. The inter-particle friction and bridging effects increases with decreasing particle size.

Isostatic pressing
In some pressing operations (such as hot isostatic pressing) compact formation and sintering occur simultaneously. This procedure, together with explosion-driven compressive techniques, is used extensively in the production of high-temperature and high-strength parts such as turbine blades for jet engines. In most applications of powder metallurgy the compact is hot-

pressed, heated to a temperature above which the materials cannot remain work-hardened. Hot pressing lowers the pressures required to reduce porosity and speeds welding and grain deformation processes. Also it permits better dimensional control of the product, lessened sensitivity to physical characteristics of starting materials, and allows powder to be driven to higher densities than with cold pressing, resulting in higher strength. Negative aspects of hot pressing include shorter die life, slower throughput because of powder heating, and the frequent necessity for protective atmospheres during forming and cooling stages. Sintering Solid state sintering is the process of taking metal in the form of a powder and placing it into a mold or die. Once compacted into the mold the material is placed under a high heat for a long period of time. Under heat, bonding takes place between the porous aggregate particles and once cooled the powder has bonded to form a solid piece. Sintering can be considered to proceed in three stages. During the first, neck growth proceeds rapidly but powder particles remain discrete. During the second, most densification occurs, the structure recrystallizes and particles diffuse into each other. During the third, isolated pores tend to become spheroidal and densification continues at a much lower rate. The words Solid State in Solid State Sintering simply refer to the state the material is in when it bonds, solid meaning the material was not turned molten to bond together as alloys are formed.[11] One recently developed technique for high-speed sintering involves passing high electrical current through a powder to preferentially heat the asperities. Most of the energy serves to melt that portion of the compact where migration is desirable for densification; comparatively little energy is absorbed by the bulk materials and forming machinery. Naturally, this technique is not applicable to electrically insulating powders. To allow efficient stacking of product in the furnace during sintering and prevent parts sticking together, many manufacturers separate ware using Ceramic Powder Separator Sheets. These sheets are available in various materials such as alumina, zirconia and magnesia. They are also available in fine medium and coarse particle sizes. By matching the material and particle size to the ware being sintered, surface damage and contamination can be reduced while maximizing furnace loading

The Processes of Powder Metallurgy The processes of powder metallurgy include blending and mixing, pressing, and sintering. Blending and mixing are carried out to achieve uniformity of the product manufactured. Distribution of properly sized particles is attained by mixing elementary powder with alloy powders to obtain a homogeneous mixture. Lubricants are also mixed with powders to minimize the wear of dies and reduce friction between the surfaces of dies and the particles of powder during compaction. Mixing time depends upon the results desired, and overmixing should be prevented, or otherwise the size of particles will be decreased, and they will be hardened. Pressing: The cavity of the die is filled with a specified quantity of blended powder, necessary pressure is applied, and then the compacted part is ejected. Pressing is performed at room temperature; the pressure depends upon the material, properties of the powder used, and the density required of the compaction. Friction between the powder and the wall of the die opposes the pressure applied; the pressure decreases with depth and causes uneven density in the compact. Thus the ratio of length and diameter is kept low to prevent substantial variations in density. Sintering: Changes occur during sintering, including changes in size, configuration, and the nature of pores. Commonly used atmospheres for sintering are hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and ammonia. Sintering operation ensures that powder particles are bonded strongly and that better alloying is achieved.