Similar to conventional manufacturing, when producing additively manufactured components, builds are only as good as the starting materials. An understanding of powder quality effects is important for manufacturing repeatability and widespread industry use of additive manufacturing. Researchers at CAVS are working to understand the impact of powder feedstock variation and the characteristics of the final build quality of additively manufactured components built on laser-based AM systems.
Since the relationship between powder characteristics and processing parameters are not well understood, experiments are conducted to investigate the impact of powders and parameters on the final material properties. Current work focuses on an aerospace alloy commonly used in additive manufacturing, Ti-6Al-4V. One large parametric study sponsored by the Army Research Laboratory is currently in progress to compare different powder production methods, size distributions, morphologies, and reuse of powder. The study investigates effects of powder characteristics and process parameters on LENS-fabricated parts according to an L36 Taguchi design. After production of the test coupons, tensile properties and porosity will be evaluated to determine the effects of powder characteristics. The extensive database of information collected during this study will also feed into modeling efforts relating to additive manufacturing at CAVS.