Tekna Plasma Systems Inc. (Sherbrooke, CA)

The present disclosure is related to a procedure and apparatus for the production of powder particles through atomization of an feed material in the form of an elongated member such as a wire, rod, or filled tube. The feed material is introduced into the plasma torch. The torch’s plasma moves a portion of the feed material forward into the atomization nozzle. A forward end of the feed material has its surface melted by exposure to one or more plasma jets that form inside the atomization nozzle. The one or more plasma jets being comprised of an annular plasma jet, a variety of converging plasma jets or a combination of an annular plasma with several converging plasma jets. The process and apparatus for the production of powder particles is also described.

A range of techniques have been developed to produce dense spherical particles, which are useful in such technologies. This is due to the growing popularity of rapid prototyping often referred to as 3D printing. The success of additive manufacturing and 3D printing is contingent upon the availability of components-making materials. These materials must be provided in the form of highly pure, fine (e.g. diameter of less than 150 .mu.m) dense free-flowing, spherical and spherical powders with clearly defined particle sizes distributions. These powders are not possible to be produced by conventional melt atomization techniques, such as liquid, gas and rotating disc.

Modern methods do not need melting in a crucible. This could lead to contamination of the material. Recent techniques can provide spherical, free-flowing powders.

For instance, certain plasma atomization processes are based upon the utilization of a variety of plasma torches that create plasma jets that merge towards an apex. When a substance is fed to be atomized in the form of a rod or rod into the apex, it is atomized and meted by heat and kinetic energy generated by plasma jets. Another option is to feed a material to be atomized in the continuous flow of molten energy directed at the apex. This requires an alignment of at least three plasma torch in order to ensure that at three plasma jets are converging towards the area of the apex. Due to the physical size of these plasma torches theapex location is bound to be a few centimeters away from an exit point for the plasma jets. This results in a loss of valuable thermal and kinetic energy from the plasma jets prior to when they reach their apex and impinge on the material. These processes are difficult because they require exact alignment and power adjustments of torches as in addition to the setting of feed rates for the material.

Other technologies are based on direct induction heating and the melting of a rod or wire of a substance to be atomized while avoiding contact between the melted material and an crucible. Melt droplets that form from the rod are absorbed by a gasatomization nozzle system and are atomized by an extremely high flow rate of an appropriate inert gas. The advantages of these technologies are of not contaminating the substance being the material being atomized. This is done by avoiding contact with the crucible made of ceramic. However, these technologies are only able to atomize pure metals or alloys. Also, these technologies are extremely complex and require precise adjustments to operating conditions for the best performance. In addition, huge amounts of inert and atomizing gases are utilized.

Therefore, there is an urgent need for methods for efficient and economical production of powder particles from an array of feed materials.

In accordance with a first aspect, the disclosed disclosure is related to a method to produce powder particles through the atomization process of a feed material in the shape of an elongated member that includes introducing the feed material in a plasma torch, then moving forward the feed material away from the plasma torch into an atomization nozzle of the plasma torch; and surface melting a front portion of the feed material through exposure to the one or more plasma jets inside the atomization nozzle the one or moreplasma jets selected from an annular plasma jet a plurality of converging plasma jets, or an assortment of these.

In another way, the present disclosure relates to an apparatus that produces powder particles by atomization of a feed material in the form of an elongated component, consisting of a plasma torch comprising an injection probe that receives the feed material; and an atomization nozzle configured to accept a forward portion of the feed material via the probe for injection, be provided with plasma, create several plasma jets, and melt a layer of an end that is forward of the feedmaterial by exposure to one or more plasma jets. One or more plasma jets can be selected from an annular or a plurality of converging, or any combination of these.

These and other characteristics are more apparent if you review the following description of the non-restrictive illustration embodiments. It is given only as an example and with no mention of the accompanying illustrations. Like numeralsrepresent like features on various figures of drawings.

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