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4/19/2011

Powder Metallurgy

Alessandro Anzalone, Ph.D.


Hillsborough Community College, Brandon Campus

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Introduction
How P/M Parts Are Made
Metal Powders
Powder Compaction
Sintering
Secondary Operations
P/M Products and Their Uses
Factors in Design of P/M Products
Examples
References

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Introduction
Powder metallurgy (P/M) is one of the four major methods of shaping metals
(machining, hot and cold plastic deformation, casting, and P/M). The P/M
process is essentially the compression of finely divided metal powder into
a briquette of the desired shape that is then heated but not melted to form
a metallurgical bond between the particles.
Although the P/M manufacturing method dates to the nineteenth century, it
was not until recent decades that this field gained wide acceptance and
use, and technological advances in P/M continue to grow very rapidly.
Products that are difficult if not impossible to produce by other means are
being manufactured with P/M at high production rates at very competitive
cost.
Parts manufactured by the P/M process have found a widespread use in a
variety of applications. P/M products are used in the transportation
industry (automobiles and trucks), in farm and garden equipment, and in
household appliances. Many new applications will be found in the future
for this unique method of forming metals.

How P/M Parts Are Made


The basic conventional process of making PIM parts consists of two basic
stepscompacting (molding) and sintering. In addition to these two basic
manufacturing steps involved in the P/M process, secondary operations
are commonly performed to impart final desired properties to the P/M
product (e.g., coining, sizing, repressing).
In the first step (compacting), loose powder (or a blend of different powders)
is placed in a die and is then compacted between punches. This operation
is commonly performed at room temperature. The compacted part, called
a briquette or green compact, is now a solid shape; however, green
compact can easily be broken or chipped and requires careful handling. In
the second step (sintering) the briquette is heated in an appropriate
atmosphere to a temperature high enough to cause the powder particles to
bond together by solid-state diffusion and to homogenize any alloy
constituents in the powder. Melting does not normally occur. The P/M
part is now ready for use unless other finishing operations are needed.

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How P/M Parts Are Made


Secondary operations may include sizing, machining, heat treating, tumble
finishing, plating, or impregnating with oil, plastics, or liquids. Secondary
operations can significantly increase the cost of the finished part,
therefore designers should limit the use of secondary operations and, if
possible, complete the product in the first two basic steps. However, the
sintering process tends to deform and shrink the shaped briquette slightly,
so some parts (e.g., precision gears) require a finishing operation to obtain
the desired tolerances.

How P/M Parts Are Made

4/19/2011

How P/M Parts Are Made

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Mjsi2F2MrY

Metal Powders
A number of different metals and their alloys are used in P/M (e.g., iron,
alloy steel, stainless steel, copper, tin, lead). The three most important
methods of producing metal powders are (1) atomization, (2) chemical
methods, and (3) electrolytic processes.
Atomization is a process in which a stream of molten metal is transformed
into a spray of droplets that solidify into powder. Molten metal spray can
be produced in several ways. The most common method is to use a stream
of high-velocity gas to atomize the molten metal. This method has several
variations. In one method, the gas stream is expanded through a venturi
tube, which siphons the molten metal from the crucible located below the
tube. The gas breaks the stream of molten metal into small droplets that
then solidify as they are carried by the gas stream. Iii another variation,
the crucible with bottom gate is located above the gas tubes. The metal
flows under the influence of gravity and passes through the gas stream,
which breaks the molten metal stream. The solidified metal droplets are
then collected n a collection chamber. In addition to gas, water and
synthetic oils can also be used in the atomization process.

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Metal Powders
Several chemical methods can be used to make metal powders, including
reduction and precipitation. Chemical reduction is a process in which
metal powders are formed by chemical reaction between metal oxides and
reducing agents (e.g., hydrogen or carbon monoxide). Hydrogen or carbon
monoxide reacts with oxygen in the metal oxide, producing pure metal.
The electrolytic process that is utilized to precipitate metal powders begins in
the electrolytic cell where the source of desired metal is the anode. As the
anode is dissolved the desired metal is deposited on the cathode. After this
step is complete, the metal deposit is removed from the cathode and is
washed and dried.

Metal Powders
In each process, the powders may be ground further to a desired fineness,
usually in a ball mill. Metal powders are screened, and larger particles are
returned for further crushing or grinding. The powders are classified
according to particle size and shape in addition to other considerations
such as chemical composition, impurity, density, and metallurgical
condition of the grains. Particle diameters range from about 0.002 in. to
less than 0.000 1 in. Test sieves are used to determine particle size. This
method of testing has been standardized throughout the industry.

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Metal Powders
Powders are often blended by tumbling or mixing. Lubricants (e.g., graphite)
are added to improve flowability of material during feeding and pressing
cycles. Deflocculants are also added to inhibit clumping and to improve
powder flow during feeding.

Powder Compaction
Compacting or pressing gives powder products their shape. Pressing and
sintering techniques can be separated into two types: conventional and
alternative. The method most commonly used today is the conventional
approach, which consists of the pressing operation first, followed by
sintering. The alternative techniques can be classified into (1) alternative
compaction methods, (2) combined compaction and sintering, and (3)
alternative sintering methods.
In the conventional compacting process, the powder is pressed
unidirectionally in a single- or a double-acting press. Unlike liquids, which
flow in all directions under pressure, powders tend to flow mainly in the
direction of the applied pressure. Engineering properties such as tensile
and compressive strength depend to a great extent on the density of
compacted material. Hot pressing, in which the powder is pressed in the
die at a high temperature, produces a density approaching that of rolled
metal. Die compaction can be done either hot or cold.

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Powder Compaction
Compaction of powders with various presses has the advantage of speed,
simplicity, economy, and reproducibility. Such compaction produces a
strong, dimensionally accurate, and relatively inexpensive product;
however, it does have limitations. The aspect ratio (length to diameter)
must be relatively small. Parts with a large aspect ratio will have uneven
densities, being denser nearest the punches. These parts may have
nonuniform and uncertain properties and should not be made by die
compaction. Grooves or undercuts or parts with thin sections cannot be
made by simple die compaction, so not every part is a good candidate for
powder metallurgy; however, some of these limitations are overcome by
alternative forming techniques such as split-die techniques to provide
undercuts, isostatic pressing, and densification methods.

Powder Compaction
Advanced Processes
Because conventional presses can compact powder along only one axis, such
presses cannot make some shapes. including hollow hemispheres, long
parts, and internal threads; however, one method allows pressure to be
applied from all directions: isostatic pressing. In cold isostatic pressing
(CIP), the powder is loaded into molds made of rubber or other
elastomeric material and subjected to high pressures at room
temperature. Pressure is transmitted to the flexible container by water or
oil. The compacted parts are removed and sintered, followed by secondary
operations if needed. With hot isostatic pressing (HIP), an inert gas such
as argon or helium is used in a pressure chamber to provide the squeeze.
This gas is reclaimed between each batch of pressings. Hot isostatic
pressing provides more density and achieves a finer microstructure than
the cold process. Powders are often preformed to an oversize shape prior
to being placed in the isostatic chamber. Heat is applied to the preform by
induction for a short time while the gas pressure compacts the preform.
Temperatures may be as high as 1600 to 2000F (871 to 1093C) with
pressures in excess of 15,000 psi. Isostatic pressing is useful only for
certain special applications.

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Powder Compaction
CIP is a comparatively slow process, and HIP is even slower. Parts made by
either CIP or HIP are not limited by the shape constraints of rigid tooling.

Powder Compaction
Powder Forging
Fully dense P/M parts equaling or surpassing the mechanical properties of
wrought products are being produced in commercial quantities by powder
forging (P/F). The green compact or preform is made in a conventional
press and then sintered. These operations are then followed by a restrike
(forge) that brings the part to the final density. Mechanical properties may
sometimes exceed those of wrought metals because a more uniform
composition is achieved in P/M processes. Fatigue strength and impact
strength are particularly high in powder forgings compared with
conventional P/M parts. P/M bearing races have been shown to outlast
wrought steel races by a factor of 5 to 1.

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Powder Compaction
Metal Powder Injection Molding
A P/M technology that borrows a plastic injection molding process shows
great promise for production of small precision parts. In fact, some
variations of this process can use plastic molding machinery. In order to
inject powders into molds, the particle size must be much finer than that
used for conventional P/M processes. This dust is combined with a
thermoplastic binder. The molding step is performed at injecting
pressures of about 900 psi and about 325F (163C). The result is a green
compact that is sintered in the conventional fashion after the
thermoplastic binder has been removed in an oven at about 400F
(204C). Thin walls, high densities, unsymmetrical shapes, and accurate
dimensions are possible with this method.

Powder Compaction
Metal Powder-to-Strip Technology
Direct rolling of metal strip from a powder slurry (powder- to-strip process)
is a process in which thin strips are directly produced, avoiding numerous
hot or cold rolling operations. In this process, an appropriate powder mix
is blended with water and a cellulose binder to form a fine slurry. The
slurry is deposited on a moving band as a continuous film. After drying,
the moving strip is compacted between rolls and then sintered, first to
remove the binder and then to bind the particles. It is rolled a second time
and resintered to remove porosity. As in all these advanced P/M
processes, metals or alloys that cannot be formed in any other way can be
produced with powdered metals. Bimetal alloys can be produced in a strip,
and high-strength titanium strip is being produced for the aircraft
industry.

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Powder Compaction

Powder Compaction
Powder Extrusion
Metal powders can be hot extruded with or without presintering. Metal
powders are placed inside a can that is then evacuated and sealed. The
unit is then heated and extruded. Metal billets and tubing are made from
powder by this process.

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Sintering
In solid-phase sintering the green compact part must be heated to 60 to 80
percent of the melting point of the constituent with the lowest melting
point. This usually requires from 30 minutes to 2 hours in a sintering
furnace to produce metallurgical bonds. The following are the important
changes that take place during the process of solid phase sintering:
1. Diffusion This takes place on or near the surface of the particles as the
temperature rises. For example, any carbon present in the voids between
the particles will diffuse (penetrate) into the metal particles.
2. Densification Particle contact areas increase considerably. Voids decrease
in size, therefore lowering porosity. As a result, there is an overall
decrease in the size of the part during the sintering process. The green
compact must be made larger to allow for this shrinkage.
3. Recrystallization and Grain Growth Because sintering is usually carried
out well above the recrystallization temperature of metals, grain growth
can occur within and in between particles. Methods of inhibiting
excessive grain growth are often used, since large grains tend to weaken
metals.

Sintering
Alternatively, liquid-phase sintering is carried out above the melting point of
one of the constituents. When one of the blended metal powders has a
melting point below the sintering temperature, a liquid phase of that
metal fills the voids between the particles that do not melt. Infiltration is a
process in which the pores or voids of a sintered or unsintered compact
are filled with a metal or alloy of a lower melting point. For example, a
steelcopper compact is heated at a temperature lower than the melting
point of the steel compact and higher than the melting temperature of
copper. The molten copper is drawn into the pores of the compact and fills
the voids. This process increases densities and tensile strengths
considerably.

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Sintering
High density and low porosity are not always desirable. Porous filters or
prelubricated bearings are produced by loose sintering or by combining
the powder with a combustible or volatile substance, which is later
removed by sintering after the green compact is made. Very large parts are
sometimes formed with very low pressures or none at all, and then loose
sintered (called pressureless sintering) followed by a cold forging
operation.
Sintering furnaces on production lines are typically of the continuous type.
Furnace atmospheres usually consist of a hydrocarbon gas; however, with
certain metals or alloys other gases may be used. Some manufacturers use
a nitrogen gas atmosphere for both ferrous and nonferrous metals.

Secondary Operations
For many products the slight variations in dimension that occur during
sintering are acceptable; however, where close dimensional tolerances
must be maintained the product must be finished after sintering. Common
secondary operations are densification, sizing, impregnation, infiltration,
heat treatment, surface treatment and machining.

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P/M Products and Their Uses


A wide array of small parts made by the P/M process. Manufactures often
choose P/M over other manufacturing methods because of the following
characteristics of P/M parts:
1. Superior engineered microstructures and properties with precise control
2. Consistent properties and quality
3. Controlled porosity for filters and self-lubrication
4. Very low scrap loss
5. Wide variety of shape designs
6. Unlimited choice of alloys and composites
7. Low-cost, high-volume production
8. Good surface finishes
9. Close dimensional tolerances
10. Little or no machining required.

P/M Products and Their Uses


Surprisingly, P/M steels are almost as strong as wrought steels, and powder
forging processes increase the tensile strength. The versatility of the P/M
process allows parts to be made lighter than with other manufacturing
processes. P/M processes allow parts to be made of very hard metals, such
as tungsten carbide cutting tools for machine tools. The P/M process can
also be used to make friction materials (in the form of bimetal powder
materials that are bonded to a steel base) and aluminum-based
antifriction materials containing graphite, iron, and copper. Copper
nickel powders are often formed as a layer on steel strip and then sintered,
The sintered strip is impregnated with babbitt metal and formed into
bearings for automobile and aircraft engines.

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P/M Products and Their Uses


Some disadvantages of P/M are found in the conventional cold die
compacting and sintering process. Since P/M products are somewhat
porous and present a larger internal surface to any corrosive atmosphere,
they have lower corrosion resistance than solid metals. P/M products also
tend to have reduced plastic properties (ductility and impact strength)
compared with conventionally produced metals.
Probably the greatest advantage in adopting the P/M process over other
methods of manufacture is that it allows for redesign that makes use of
the great versatility of the P/M process. Many small mechanisms such as
those found in pneumatic drills, electronic printers and sequencers, door
locks, firearms, and sewing machines have a number of small parts that
can often be combined into one piece by redesigning for powder
metallurgy. Savings in production can be realized and the mechanism can
be simplified as well. P/M is not suitable for every metal product, but its
use should always be considered when designing a part to be
manufactured.

Factors in Design of P/M Products


When parts are made by the conventional powder metal process, several
elements of design should be observed. Thin sections and feathered edges
should be avoided. Generous fillet radii should always be pro vided in a
die, and internal holes should have rounded corners. External corners
should be chamfered, and narrow deep slots should be avoided. Splines or
key- seats should have rounded roots.
Secondary machining processes are common practice for precision P/M
parts. Holes, tapers and drafts, counter- sinks, threads, knurls, and
undercuts usually must be machined after the parts are sintered; however,
holes in the direction of pressing are readily produced in P/M parts.
Round holes are easiest to produce, but shaped holes, keys, splines,
hexagonals, squares, and any blind holes can also be made.

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Factors in Design of P/M Products

Factors in Design of P/M Products

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Examples

Examples

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Examples

References
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R Gregg Bruce, William K. Dalton, John E Neely, and Richard R


Kibbe, , Modern Materials and Manufacturing Processes,
Prentice Hall, 3rd edition, 2003, ISBN: 9780130946980
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http://www nippoh com cn/upload/2009113164705 jpg
http://www.nippoh.com.cn/upload/2009113164705.jpg
http://www.xhmfm.com/english/cp.htm

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Powder Metallurgy

Alessandro Anzalone, Ph.D.


Hillsborough Community College, Brandon Campus

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