The ATO atomizer is capable of producing metal powders from a wide range of materials, including refractory and high entropy metals, with a melting temperature of up to 3400°C, allowing users to explore an even wider range of applications. The system has a narrow particle size distribution from 20 to 120 μm due to the influence of ultrasonic waves. By adjusting the ultrasonic frequency and other parameters, the atomizer can produce metal powders of different sizes and shapes to meet specific application requirements, making the system highly customizable.
ATO technology enables the production of high-quality quality, customizable metal powders with extremely low oxygen content, high particle sphericity, and excellent flowability for both reactive and non-reactive alloys. The use of an innovative sonotrode eliminates contamination and ensures a stable and repeatable process.
Its ability to process a wide range of materials and produce metal powders of different sizes and shapes makes it an ideal tool for research and development, as well as commercial production applications.
Periodic table of atomized alloys by ATO metal powder atomizer
Steel is the most widely used material in almost all industries due to its low price, high mechanical properties and a wide range of heat treatments that can help tailor the material for individual purposes. The atomization process of steel is one of the simplest and most balanced in terms of quality, yield and process stability. Its characteristics allow it to be used as a primary benchmark material for the ultrasonic atomization process. The distribution of the powder is very homogeneous with a narrow range of metal powder, which is very desirable for some manufacturing methods.
Titanium is one of the most promising materials of the 21st century, having one of the highest values of strength to density and corrosion resistance. Similar to steel, it can be easily atomized using ultrasonic atomization. The process can be very stable which has immense potential for automation. Considering the high prices of titanium alloys and its powders, ultrasonic atomization has one of the best commercial perspectives. Nevertheless, one of the main challenges is the rate of absorption of oxygen and nitrogen, which places additional requirements for the atomization process conditions.
Nickel-based alloys are mainly used in the aerospace industry due to their high temperature and corrosion resistance combined with good ductility and strength. The atomization of the material is very stable, similar to steel and titanium. Oxygen pick-up is exceptionally low, and the material is homogeneous. Due to these advantages, ultrasonic atomization seems to be a good and efficient method for scrap recycling. Some international companies may be interested in implementing ultrasonic atomization to reduce their carbon footprint and increase the ESG rating.
Aluminum is one of the most commonly used non-ferrous alloys due to its low density, relatively high strength and good corrosion resistance. Atomization of the metal and its alloy is quite challenging due to several issues. However, the powder meets the requirements for most 3D printers with a sphericity of 0.93 and an eq. grain diameter of approximately 50 µm. One of the main challenges with aluminum and its alloys is their affinity for oxygen, which creates a large surface tension between the molten metal and the sonotrode tip which decreases the contact zone. Furthermore, a thin layer may still be present on the surface of the powder. Based on the research conducted, higher frequency allows for a more stable atomization process that can be performed with minimal operator interference.
The lightest construction material which has decent strength and the highest specific strength for metal alloys. Magnesium alloys can be used where weight reduction is a key feature. The atomization of magnesium tends to be challenging, but by optimizing the process it is possible to obtain powder with high sphericity. Higher frequency piezoelectric generators can further stabilize the process. It is also worth noting that the problem with most magnesium alloys is very rapid oxidation, which also applies to atomized powder. Magnesium powder is highly reactive and the ATO Lab Plus system has one of the best coating systems which increases the safety of the process.
This group includes the most resilient materials that are hard to manufacture and form using conventional technologies. The most common materials in this group are tungsten, molybdenum and tantalum. Ultrasonic atomization enables to produce a fine powder suitable for most applications. It is worth mentioning that 3D Lab has dedicated features that reduce the wear of the working chamber, which is an issue for all refractory materials. The atomization process is stable and can be partially automated.
Gold, platinum and silver can be successfully atomized to produce fine metal powders. This opens new shaping possibilities where the only limit is the designer's imagination. Furthermore, by using ATO Noble it is possible to achieve zero waste production, which is the most important feature in the jewelry industry. It is also worth mentioning that the chemical composition remains the same after atomization, which helps to maintain the right precious metal standard.
Copper and its alloys are best known for their electrical and thermal conductivity. The material has high resistance to corrosion and is a semi-precious material. The material enforces the use of higher currents despite relatively low melting temperature. Nevertheless, metal powder has remarkably high sphericity and homogeneity. Atomization of zinc-containing brass can be challenging due to fuming at high temperatures. Careful parameter optimization is required.
High-entropy alloys (HEA)
High entropy alloys are being developed at many research institutions. The results indicate that some HEAs have significantly better strength-to-weight ratios, with higher levels of fracture resistance, tensile strength, and corrosion and oxidation resistance than conventional alloys. The atomization of HEA is highly dependent on the chemical composition of the material. It is easier to atomize materials that are easy to melt and have relatively low surface tension. Depending on the chemical composition of the alloy, the melting tip material core must be selected individually.
In addition to the common metals, we have successfully atomized metals for the semiconductor industry, such as MoS2 and others. Spherical metal powders were obtained in laboratory quantities, which can be further processed by special AM processes. We have also had success with some zirconium bulk metallic glasses, although in small quantities. Other meltable and weldable materials can be atomized with appropriate process parameter selection. Based on melting temperature, affinity to oxygen, chemical composition requirements, it is possible to obtain the appropriate atomization parameters.