• Vol 10, No 8 (2019)
  • Mechanical Engineering

Effect of Feed Metal Flow Rate on Low-cost Plasma Atomizer for Fabricating 316L Stainless Steel Powder

Dharmanto , Sugeng Supriadi, Ario Sunar Baskoro

Corresponding email: ario@eng.ui.ac.id


Cite this article as:
Dharmanto., Supriadi, S., Baskoro, A.S. 2019. Effect of Feed Metal Flow Rate on Low-cost Plasma Atomizer for Fabricating 316L Stainless Steel Powder. International Journal of Technology. Volume 10(8), pp. 1593-1601
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Dharmanto Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Indonesia, Kampus UI Depok, Depok 16424, Indonesia
Sugeng Supriadi Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Indonesia, Kampus UI Depok, Depok 16424, Indonesia
Ario Sunar Baskoro Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Indonesia, Kampus UI Depok, Depok 16424, Indonesia
Email to Corresponding Author

Abstract
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The low-cost plasma atomizer in the present study successfully synthesized stainless steel spherical powder using an energy source of less than 3 kVA. Repeated testing was conducted to examine the resulting spherical powder, among other observations, using a digital microscope (Dino-Lite AM4115), scanning electron microscopy (SEM-FEI-Inspect F50), and energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS). To ensure the purity of the resulting 316L stainless steel spherical powder, EDS was used for qualitative and quantitative elemental analysis. The results showed that the 316L stainless steel spherical powder particles varied in size from 26 µm to 180 µm with average particle diameters of approximately 82.6 µm, making them ideal for biomedical applications. The results of the feed metal flow rate on the powder weight percentages for particle sizes <50 µm for 2 mm3/s feed metal flow, 3 mm3/s feed metal flow, and 4 mm3/s feed metal flow were 26.04%, 28.04%, and 13.09%, respectively. It is possible that this could occur because greater metal flow rates require greater plasma energy to form liquid metal droplets, so that a lower metal flow rate at the same energy consumption makes it possible to produce more metal powder in smaller particles.

Plasma atomizer; Powder technology; Spherical particle; Stainless steel powder

Introduction

The metal manufacturing industry is currently interested in developing metal powder technology for production cost efficiency. One of the applications of metal powder technology is as a feedstock for metal injection molding (MIM) (Suharno et al., 2019; Supriadi et al., 2019). MIM can produce lower surface roughness values ??compared to investment casting (Suharno et al., 2018). MIM is advantageous mainly due to its significant technological cost savings compared with the use of machinery (Schieleper, 2006; Supriadi et al., 2015). Metal powder technology enables reductions in waste material production. Metal powder technology can be classified as a green technology because it can reduce more residual waste material than other conventional fabrication technologies such as five-axis CNC machining (Higashitani et al., 2019). At this time, the atomization process is a suitable choice for producing metal powder because atomization is capable of producing large amounts of powder with high purity (Boulos, 2004). Atomization processes for making metal powder include water atomization, gas atomization (Zhao et al., 2007), centrifugal atomization (Sungkhaphaitoon et al., 2013), plasma atomization, and plasma rotating electrodes process atomization (Dawes et al., 2015).

The atomization process that uses a plasma arc has a high heat source density that can melt various metals with a high melting point (Lü et al., 2013). The plasma arc used in this study was a type of thermal plasma that is commonly used, including in cutting (Wang et al., 2000), welding (Luo, 2003), surface hardening (Ismail & Taha, 2014), nanopowder synthesis (Liu et al., 2015; Saryanto & Sebayang, 2017), and surface treatment of biomedical materials (Chu et al., 2002).

A plasma atomizer is capable of producing a powder with particle diameters of 50 µm (Chen et al., 2018). Powder with particles of this size can be applied as the primary raw material for making medical devices (Grenier & Allaire, 1997; Baskoro & Supriadi, 2019). One of the characteristics of high-quality metal powder is the perfect spherical shapes of the particles and a narrow size distribution, which can improve the flowability of the powder.

The current challenge of using plasma atomization is its high cost, partly because the process requires a large energy source. The energy sources used generally have a power of approximately 20 kVA-600 kVA (Tsantrizos et al., 1998; Dignard & Boulos, 2000; Boulos, 2004; Dawes et al., 2015). In the present study, a plasma atomizer with low-cost equipment was designed and built as a solution to the high cost of plasma atomization. A plasma atomizer was fabricated with a power of 3 kVA without the need to use a melt bath, so the plasma atomization process is faster than the gas atomization or water atomization processes. The plasma atomization process has been made to produce stainless steel spherical powder particles with a diameter of less than 50 µm.


Conclusion

The results of the experiments in this study show that the plasma atomizer successfully synthesized the spherical metal powder using an energy source of less than 3 kVA. The plasma atomizer can produce perfectly spherical stainless steel powder particles. The sizes of the resulting 316L stainless steel spherical powder particles vary from 26 µm to 180 µm. The average particle diameter is approximately 82.6 µm. The results of the flow rate on the powder weight percentages at particle sizes <50 µm for 2 mm3/s feed metal flow, 3 mm3/s  feed metal flow, and 4 mm3/s feed metal flow are 26.04%, 28.04%, and 13.09%, respectively. It is possible that this could occur because greater metal flow rates require greater plasma energy to form liquid metal droplets, so that a lower metal flow rate makes it possible to produce more metal powder in smaller particles. The resulting 316L stainless steel spherical powder is likely to be used in biomedical manufacturing applications. Based on the above research, fascinating research could be conducted to find the optimal parameters in the plasma atomization in order to produce particle sizes that are suitable for biomedical equipment manufacturing applications.

Acknowledgement

This research was supported by the Ministry of Research and Technology of the Republic of Indonesia through the Excellent Applied Research in Higher Education scheme (contract number: NKB-1744/ UN2.R3.1/ HKP.05.00/ 2019).

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