During the SME Instrument phase-1, INNOMAQ21 S.L. has demonstrated the feasibility of our new production method for steel alloys and for aluminium alloys at our R&D pilot plant facility.
Within the SME Instrument phase-2, we are now designing and implementing an industrial scale atomizer and we will scale-up the production process to produce and commercialise steel and aluminium alloys optimized and tailored for MAM.
Due to the importance of this innovation and the intensity of the worldwide technological competition in Metal Additive Manufacturing Technologies, INNOPOWDER contributes to the competitiveness of European Industrial Production and Leadership in novel manufacturing technologies.
Conventional Powder Technology
Periodic Reporting for period 2 – INNOPOWDER
Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2021-05-31
The design of an industrial atomizer, composed of two distinct and separated chambers, has been carried out and preliminary versions of the documentation and drawings required for the up-scaling process, construction and commissioning have been elaborated. The designs of the auxiliary operating systems have also been carried out, manufactured and tested. Based on best value for money criteria, suppliers for the construction of required elements of the atomomizer and required auxiliary equipment have been evaluated and subcontractors contracted. Physic-chemical, rheological, morphological and PSD characterizations were continuously performed to ensure the high and distinctive quality of INNOPOWDER through the corresponding adjustments of production processing parameters and alloy compositions. As part of the homologation process of INNOPOWDER, powder samples were processed by way of different MAM technologies, and in particular for the determination of processing parameters using SLM and other fine-powder-based AM technologies. For quality control purposes, corresponding characterizations of the thermal, mechanical and microstructural properties, density, structural integrity and surface finish were carried out. Additionally, mechanical structural simulation of the optimized designs was performed using specific software for design, topological optimization and simulation to ensure the functionality and high performance of components additively made with INNOPOWDER. Progress was made in the selection and preparation of five pilot demonstrators in close collaboration with international manufacturing companies. The industrial pilots that are being prepared to be performed within the INNOPOWDER project were chosen so as to provide a wide range of different application cases in order to demonstrate the advantages of INNOPOWDER for different high-performance metal powder-based alloys and application areas for the production of automotive components. Comprehensive IP management has been carried out to ensure freedom to operate and to continue with the patent prosecution of a total of 6 patent families protecting the INNPOWDER technology. Thanks to the EIC pilot Business Acceleration services, several dissemination events have been attended as part of WP6 before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, which gave the opportunity to meet relevant related stakeholders, gather information with regard to current challenges faced by them, present the company and the project and explore business opportunities. Also, a project website has been put in place, which will be continuously updated. Given that physical meetings with stakeholders have been strongly limited to the restrictions put in place in the wake of the pandemic, dissemination activities have been adjusted to participation and organization of digital events.
Most MAM technologies have stringent requirements on powder morphology. Spherical, satellite-free powder with a narrow particle size distribution is required. The most common methods to produce metal powders encompass mechanical or chemical methods, and include atomization, milling, mechanical alloying and electrolysis. Atomization is possibly the most versatile method to produce metal powders over a wide range of production rates and an extensive variety of powder sizes. Two-fluid atomization methods with gas (including air) or water account for more than 95% of the atomization capacity worldwide. For the atomization of iron alloys or steel powder, gas atomization is almost the exclusive method of production, as it delivers powders which are mostly spherical and with small quantities of satellites. However, production of powders with narrow size distribution often implies the use of sieving or other separation techniques with a consequent negative influence on yield and thus cost. With centrifugal atomization on the other hand, which is more energy efficient than other atomization methodologies and enables narrower particle size distribution, only small feed rates and small-scale batches are so far practicable, especially when fine powders with high melting temperatures are required. The above-mentioned inconveniences of the different State-of-the-Art atomization technologies have been overcome by a new, highly energy efficient manufacturing technology developed and patented by INNOMAQ21. This disruptive technology enables the cost-efficient production of very fine, highly spherical homogeneous metal powders with narrow particle size distribution required for MAM. The developed technology has demonstrated to be able to produce high-quality powders at a reduced cost compared to current commercial MAM powders. The use of INNOPOWDER will have great benefits for component manufacturers, including metal component production cost reductions, higher component quality and hence performance, higher flexibility in component design, enabling the manufacture of complex geometries with 40-60% and more weight reduction. Furthermore, in automotive and aerospace applications, the increased possibility of biomimetic designs enables important fuel consumption and hence climate gas emission reductions through lighter components manufactured by MAM.