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Powder Metallurgy

Powder metallurgy encompasses the science and engineering of producing metal alloys in powder form, consolidating them into shapes, then sintering to achieve final shape and properties. Advanced technologies expand on this basic idea with additive manufacturing, in which parts are built to near-net or net shape. With these technologies, which are controlled by CAD programs, powders may be sintered in layers, or sprayed in specific patterns, or melted by electron beams to form parts. Regardless, of the process, nearly every alloy can be formed into parts via powder metallurgy, and some alloys are not possible to make except by powder metallurgy. 

NSL Analytical Tests Metal Powders

NSL analyzes metal powders for customers who want to be sure that the powder they received from a supplier has the correct chemistry, particle size distribution, and physical and mechanical properties they ordered.  We test finished components for hardness, impact resistance, tensile strength, and density. We analyze specimens via metallography for correct microstructure, and perform other tests depending on the specific service environment and function of the part.

In addition to forming parts, powder materials serve as coatings to protect substrates from corrosion, wear, high temperatures, erosion, or abrasion.  For some applications, they impart electrical conductivity or electrical insulation.

Examples of powder metallurgy coating technologies include:

  • Weld overlay: Thick coating is provided by melting both the powder and a small amount of the base metal. This produces a metallurgical bond.
  • Thermal spray: Thin coatings are provided by flame spray, plasma spray, high-velocity oxyfuel, detonation gun, and similar technologies. Thermal spray usually produces a mechanical bond.
  • Fluidized bed: Dry air suspends powder in a tank, causing the powder to act like a fluid. Parts to be coated are preheated above the fusion point of the powder, then dipped in the fluidized powder, which fuses to the parts.

NSL tests powder metallurgy coatings for thickness, adherence, composition, porosity, hardness, and impact strength, and we characterize microstructures via metallography. We also test for specific characteristics of the coatings, such as electrical conductivity or high-temperature resistance. 

Request a powder metallurgy and coatings testing quote today. 

Learn how NSL supports innovation by testing powder characterization for flow rate and particle size and distribution in the Additive Manufacturing & 3D Printing Industry.

NSL Analytical's Tests of Powder Metallurgy Parts and Coatings

Test method

Properties measured

Metallography

Microstructure, particle size, particle size distribution, composite reinforcements

Scanning electron microscope (SEM)

Combined imaging and elemental analysis

Chemistry

Fillers, binders, contaminants

Rockwell, Brinell, Microhardness

Hardness

Charpy

Impact strength

Stress rupture

Time to failure under a specified overload

Inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometry (ICP/MS)

Trace elements identification and amounts

X-ray fluorescence

Coating thickness

Image analysis

Particle size and shape