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The evolving metal powder marketplace

The evolving metal powder marketplace: Total solutions, vertical integrations and start-up innovations This is a challenging and exciting time for producers of metal powders. Talk of the industrialisation of Additive Manufacturing is everywhere and key pieces of the AM jigsaw such as standards, quality systems and installed production capacity are falling into place. The nature of the companies which are looking to take advantage of the anticipated feast is, however, surprisingly diverse. In this article, Alex Kingsbury and Dayton Horvarth highlight how longestablished metal powder giants are adapting to AM and how agile start-ups are carving out niches in the powder marketplace.

The industrialisation of metal Additive Manufacturing is the topic on everyone’s minds right now; in order to sustain or enhance the current rate of growth, we need to see the continuous manufacturing of certified AM parts. Producing metal AM parts on a continuous basis not only ensures sustainable growth, it also has a market-stabilising effect. A stable market can be a more competitive market and, where demand is met with strong competition on the supply side, there is a market opportunity for the whole supply chain. It is interesting to review the metal powder market with respect to industrialisation and competitiveness. Metal powders exist within established Powder Metallurgy (PM) supply chains; however, given the unique requirements of AM powders, an AM-specific marketplace for powders and their resultant supply chains has evolved. Metal AM powders are currently niche and expensive products relative to PM powders; this is driven by a number of factors – primarily, the market volume is still very small. Without sufficient scale,

Vol. 5 No. 4 © 2019 Inovar Communications Ltd

metal powder production processes are inefficient, demand is variable and market pricing remains somewhat fluid and inflated as a result. Increasingly, there is an emphasis on speciality atomising equipment to produce dedicated AM powders in order to meet stringent customer

requirements around morphology, purity and particle size distribution. In summary, dedicated AM powder production ensures that users receive high-quality product, but means that AM technology cannot leverage the benefits of being aligned to larger and more established supply chains.

Fig. 1 The world of metal powders is diverse and there isn’t necessarily a single ‘right choice’ of powder production process for all AM applications. These powders, from GKN Sinter Metals, are produced by water atomisation (left), conventional gas atomisation (centre) and Electrode Induction Gas Atomisation / EIGA (right). All can be succesfully used in AM when partnered with the appropriate application (Courtesy GKN Sinter Metals)

Metal Additive Manufacturing | Winter 2019

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Profile for Inovar Communications

Metal AM Winter 2019  

The magazine for the Metal Additive Manufacturing and metal 3D Printing Industries. In addition to over 75 pages of the latest industry news...

Metal AM Winter 2019  

The magazine for the Metal Additive Manufacturing and metal 3D Printing Industries. In addition to over 75 pages of the latest industry news...