Canadian materials engineering firm Equispheres specializes in developing powders for metal additive manufacturing (AM), and, over the last couple of years, has been working to bring in investment funding to scale the production of its materials. Now, the Ontario-based company announced that it has launched a brand new line of aluminum alloy powder products, which have been optimized to achieve strength and more precise, rapid 3D printing.
Equispheres prides itself for the ability to create high-performing materials, which makes sense considering it’s a materials science company. The firm developed a patent-pending atomization technology that can produce totally spherical metal powder, and hired a facility, which certifies materials for AM applications in aerospace and defense, to conduct extensive research on the powders. The results found that the aluminum alloy powders can be successfully used in binder jet 3D printing, which is often used in automotive applications.
“Equispheres’ unique proprietary atomization process is carefully controlled and can be managed with precision. Powder features such as PSD (particle size distribution), morphology, and chemistry can be optimized to achieve specific behaviour in the laser melting process and to meet defined application requirements,” explained Dr. Martin Conlon, the CTO at Equispheres.
The three new atomized aluminum alloy powder products, which are variations of its existing high-performance material, include Equispheres Performance, which was designed specifically to offer better part performance and strength for multiple applications, and Equispheres says that it has a 20-30% increase over traditional powders “in the a-basis design allowable.” The Equispheres Precision powder is meant for applications that require precision and fine features, and is said to offer a 50% improvement in dimensional accuracy.
Finally, the company says that its new Equispheres Production was designed to lower cost per part manufactured, “with features designed to facilitate the rapid production of items without compromising mechanical performance.” Additionally, Equispheres is working on new AM parameter sets for this last powder in order to raise production speed by up to three to four times.
In addition to its new released powders, Equispheres has another announcement: these new products can also be bundled with advanced application engineering services. Along with powder delivery, these bundled services can help customers get the best results with the powder they choose for their specific metal AM application needs.
“The unique nature of the Equispheres powder requires the use of special printer parameters to achieve the best outcomes. Our research team has been working with our industrial partners in automotive and aerospace to arrive at the optimal methods for the application of our powder,” said Evan Butler-Jones, the Director of Applications Engineering at Equispheres. “For new customers that knowledge on how to best use the powder is just as important as having the powder itself, which is why we now offer engineering service to facilitate the implementation of the powder into production.”
In Q1 of 2021, Equispheres is planning to announce another powder product line that’s meant for sintering and binder jet 3D printers.
According to the SmarTech Analysis report “Additive Manufacturing with Metal Powders 2020,” the next several years, and even just the next few quarters, “may be the difference between life and death for the crowded metal additive market.” If metal AM powder companies want to survive past the COVID pandemic, then they’ll need to invest the time, energy, and research necessary to improve their materials, which is exactly what Equispheres is doing.
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