Buying metal powder: Three tips to help you find the best powder for your application

Anyone wanting to buy metal powder will find themselves facing a huge selection of different products. Basically, one presumes that it is obvious which kind of metal powder is needed, respectively, what kind of raw material it has to be. However, it can quickly become difficult when getting down to the details. Now, we have three tips for you which will make it easier to buy the best metal powder.

Buying metal powder: Do you know what really counts?

Choosing the right metal powder for industrial purposes is a complex matter. The various powders differ in many respects, such as:

  • Nature of the raw material
  • Production process
  • Powder grain structure
  • Potential applications
  • Individual properties
  • Storage requirements
  • Costs and available quantity

This means that it is absolutely vital to take a closer look at the different product properties before ultimately being able to buy the right metal powder. However, you do not have to plunge right into the depths of the chemical details to make a preliminary selection. If you are not sure about the main things to watch out for when taking your first step, the following tips will help you.

Tip 1: Carefully examine your application

Initially, the question to be asked is: What do you need the metal powder for? Metal powders are used in numerous industries and for a wide variety of applications. And, obviously, you will need to buy a different metal powder for an application in the cosmetics sector than for manufacturing car components. Typical industries where metal powders are used include:

  • Paint and coatings industry
  • Electronics industry
  • Automotive industry
  • Cosmetics industry
  • Printing industry
  • Nuclear Industry

Even if you have had good experience with a particular metal powder in the past, this does not automatically mean that this is the best choice for another application. Powders made of magnesium, aluminium, aluminium-silicon, bronze, copper, brass, zinc, and iron are amongst the most common metal powders to be found. Special powders, such as solder powder, nickel, titanium, silver, vanadium, germanium, and hafnium powder, make up another category.

Tip 2: Consider the challenges resulting from processing

In the next step, turn your attention to the processing. It is true to say: Not every powder is ideal for every type of processing.

Common types of processing

  • Sintering
  • Metal injection moulding MIM
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Selective laser melting SLM
  • Thermal spraying processes (HVOF, plasma, cold gas, …)
  • Chemical reactants (blue dye for jeans)

Even from this brief overview, you can see that there are many different ways of moulding the metal powder as required or integrating it into the respective end product. Therefore, make absolutely sure to consider the type of processing involved because the following goes without saying: A metal powder used in a 3D printing process has to meet different requirements than a powder destined for usage in a classic sintering application.

Another decisive aspect: When buying metal powder, think about whether additives are to be used – and if so, which ones. Metal powders are often combined – be it with other metals or useful additives aimed at improving the properties of the product. Here, it is crucial to ensure that the respective raw materials are mutually compatible and that no hazards arise as a result of combining them.

Tip 3: Get some advice

The same applies whether you are an old hand in the business or gaining your first experience in the powder metallurgy field: If you are looking at buying metal powder, you cannot do wrong in getting some good advice. Even those who are familiar with the typical applications and properties of individual metal powders can benefit from an independent expert opinion. Particularly during day-to-day business operations, it is not always easy to stay up to date with the latest developments in the industry. However, new findings and innovative approaches gained from the production and processing of metal powders might just give you and your company an additional boost. Especially if you are looking for the right metal powder for a completely new area of application.

If you have taken tips 1 and 2 to heart, you will be well prepared for a talking to an expert. You know what you ultimately want to achieve and which process you want to use to get there – and with the right advice you will also find the most suitable metal powder. And maybe the dialogue will also result in a new, improved approach that will provide long-term benefits. Buying in a “fingers crossed” style and according to the motto: “We’ve always done it that way” may work for simple, standard applications. However, if the production process is to be optimised, it is worth looking left and right the next time you buy metal powder. If you need assistance when purchasing, please feel free to arrange to talk to us.

When you buy metal powder, many factors play a role

“One helping of magnesium powder, please”: Unfortunately, in most cases, buying metal powder is rarely that simple. As is the case for all industrial applications, numerous aspects need to be taken into account to ensure that the end product evolving from the respective raw material is of the desired quality. However, do not be unnerved by the huge selection available – simply proceed step by step. It is like buying a car: You do not start off with the optional extras here, either – but instead work your way through from the rough features to the details. This approach also works here and allows you to calmly go about buying a metal powder that is certain to meet all your requirements – effortlessly.

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