Freemelt Holding AB, Mölndal, Sweden, has been granted a US patent protecting a method of neutralising electric charge in metal powders by means of ultraviolet radiation. This method can increase the resolution and robustness of the Electron Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-EB) process by preventing the accumulation of electric charge in metal powder.
“This innovation opens up 3D printing technology for more application areas and gives more freedom of choice regarding powder materials,” stated Ulric Ljungblad, inventor and Chief Innovation Officer at Freemelt. “Enabling finer powders, it will be easier to print metal parts with high resolution and smooth surface finish, without jeopardising process stability. We expect to be able to 3D print with metal powders that were previously difficult to handle.”
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The accumulation of electric charge in the metal powder has previously hampered the use of very fine powders when used in combination with high beam power. The method discussed in the patent uses electromagnetic radiation directed onto the powder layer to reduce this electrostatic charge.
The process can be performed before the electron beam interacts with the powder or simultaneously with the electron beam. This is said to enable it to reduce electrons either in the vicinity of the electron beam interaction region, or the entire powder bed and surrounding machine components, achieving a stable environment for the manufacturing process.
This could open up opportunities for even higher productivity in future PBF-EB machines.
Daniel Gidlund, CEO of Freemelt, added, “This patent strengthens Freemelt’s position and is important for our upcoming industrial 3D printing solutions. It is also yet another proof of the extraordinary innovation capability of our experienced team. I have been continuously impressed ever since I joined Freemelt a few months ago.”