Nickel Alloy Powder

Table of Contents

Nickel alloy powder refers to powder metallurgy forms of various nickel-based alloys. These powders can be processed into finished components using powder consolidation techniques like hot isostatic pressing and metal injection molding. Nickel alloy powders feature high strength, corrosion resistance, high temperature performance, and other specialized properties.

Types of Nickel Alloy Powders

Nickel alloys are complex materials with precise compositions tailored to achieve certain characteristics. The most common nickel alloy powder types include:

AlloyNickel ContentOther AlloysKey Properties
Nickel-based SuperalloysOver 50%Chromium, cobalt, molybdenum, tungsten, aluminum, titaniumHigh strength at high temperatures, corrosion resistance, oxidation resistance
Stainless Steels8-32%Iron, chromium, molybdenumCorrosion resistance, high temperature strength
Low Expansion Alloys36-50%Iron, chromium, cobaltExtremely low thermal expansion
Magnetic AlloysUp to 79%Iron, molybdenumHigh permeability and saturation magnetization
Resistance Alloys10-30%Chromium, aluminum, copperHigh electrical resistivity

Nickel alloy powders span a wide range compositional varieties depending on the target material properties needed. Tailoring the microstructure is critical.

nickel alloy powder

Production Methods for Nickel Alloy Powders

Several techniques can produce nickel alloy powder for industrial consumption:

  • Atomization – Melted alloys streamed into high pressure gas flow and rapidly solidified into powder
  • Electrolysis – Aqueous electrolytic process to directly obtain powders from plate
  • Carbonyl Process – Exposure to carbon monoxide gas at low temperatures/pressures

Atomization is the most common method, allowing higher volumes and cheaper production costs. The table below outlines some pros and cons of each nickel alloy powder production route:

AtomizationHigher output rates, lower costsLess control over powder morphology
ElectrolysisGood chemical homogeneitySlow production rate
CarbonylUltra high purityLimited alloys, lower density

Controlling particle size distribution, morphology, oxide content, and microcleanliness are also key quality considerations during manufacturing.

Nickel Alloy Powder Composition

As outlined before, nickel alloys contain nickel plus various other elements to achieve desired attributes. Here are some typical compositions:

Nickel Superalloys

ElementWeight %

Stainless Steel Powders

ElementWeight %

Low Expansion Alloys

ElementWeight %

The weight percentages can vary quite significantly even within the same alloy family to create versions with specifically targeted attributes.

Characteristics of Nickel Alloy Powders

Key characteristics of nickel alloy powders include:

  • Particle Size: Typically 10 – 45 microns
  • Morphology: Spherical, satellite, irregular shapes
  • Apparent Density: Up to 65% of bulk alloy density
  • Flowability: Effects mold filling behavior
  • Oxide Content: Affects consolidation and properties
  • Microcleanliness: Presence of voids, cracks or inclusions

Controlling these powder characteristics through optimized manufacturing is essential for consistency in downstream powder processing methods.

Applications of Nickel Alloy Powders

Nickel alloy powders are used across industries where high performance materials with specialized properties are needed:

Nickel Superalloys

  • Turbine blades
  • Rocket engine combustion chambers
  • Nuclear reactors
  • Chemical processing equipment

Stainless Steel Powders

  • Pumps and valves
  • Marine components
  • Food processing equipment
  • Surgical instruments
  • Mixing equipment

Low Expansion Alloys

  • Precision instruments
  • Optical mirrors and mounts
  • Electronics packaging
  • Aerospace composites

Magnetic Alloys

  • Magnet cores
  • Magnetic sensors
  • Actuators
  • Electric motors

Resistance Alloys

  • Heating elements
  • Resistors
  • Thermocouples
  • Battery components

Nickel alloy powders enable small, complex components with superior properties compared to wrought forms.

Consolidation Methods for Nickel Alloy Powders

Common techniques to consolidate nickel alloy powders into solid parts include:

  • Metal Injection Molding (MIM): Binder mixed with powder, molded, then debinded and sintered
  • Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP): Applying high heat and isostatic pressure to compact powder
  • Additive Manufacturing: 3D printing techniques like binder jetting and directed energy deposition

MIM yields high volumes of small, complex geometries at low costs. HIP offers near full density and net shape outcomes. Additive techniques provide the most design freedom.

Each consolidation process has its own set of recommended powder characteristics for optimal results:

ProcessIdeal Particle SizeMorphologyApparent Density
Metal Injection Molding10-20 micronsSphericalOver 50%
Hot Isostatic Pressing15-45 micronsIrregularOver 40%
Additive Manufacturing15-45 micronsSphericalOver 40%

Specifications for Nickel Alloy Powders

Industrial grade nickel alloy powders must meet composition limits and quality metrics as per various international specifications:

ASTM B168Unalloyed Nickel Powder grades
AMS 2249Nickel Alloy Powder grades
ISO 4490Gas Atomized powders
ASTM B214Classification system
ISO 22068Specifications for MIM powders

These standards help define chemical makeup limits, acceptable levels of impurities/inclusions, particle size distribution expectations, apparent density ranges, and other critical parameters that significantly influence performance.

Suppliers of Nickel Alloy Powders

Leading global suppliers of various nickel alloy powders include:

CompanyKey ProductsProduction CapacityPricing
VDM MetalsNickel superalloys, low expansion alloys10,000 tons per year$50+ per kg
Sandvik OspreyStainless steels, maraging steels15,000 tons per year$12-$40 per kg
HoganasStainless steels, magnetic alloys25,000 tons per year$5-$25 per kg
AMETEKResistance heating alloys7,000 tons per year$30-$100 per kg
CNPC PowderNickel superalloys5,000 tons per year$150+ per kg

Prices vary based on alloy complexity, powder characteristics, production method used, customization needs, as well as market demand/capacity.

Advantages of Nickel Alloy Powders

Key benefits of using nickel alloy powders instead of wrought products:

  • Produce small, complex component geometries
  • Near net shape with minimal wastage
  • Fine microstructures from rapid solidification
  • Components with superior properties
  • Allows economic use of expensive materials
  • Simplifies processing of hard-to-work alloys
  • Components can be mass produced
  • Range of consolidation methods

Powder metallurgy techniques make otherwise unmanufacturable designs feasible.

Limitations of Nickel Alloy Powders

Some drawbacks associated with nickel alloy powders:

  • Powder production methods can be energy/resource intensive
  • Consolidated properties dependent on multiple powder characteristics
  • Lower ductility and fracture toughness vs wrought forms
  • Limited sizes/volumes compared to cast/wrought methods
  • Post-processing may be needed to achieve final part specifications
  • Porosity in finished components if improper consolidation
  • Needs specialized equipment and expert handling

However, the unique properties and geometrical flexibility provided by nickel alloy powders make them an indispensable advanced material across many technology sectors.

Nickel Alloy Powder Research

Ongoing research aims to expand capabilities and new applications using nickel alloy powders:

  • Alloy development – New compositions for enhanced high temperature strength, wear resistance, etc.
  • Novel consolidation methods – Microwave sintering, plasma densification, etc. for faster processing
  • Nanocrystalline powders – For extremely fine microstructures and advanced properties
  • Functionally graded materials – Graded composition/structures within components
  • Metal matrix composites – Reinforcing nickel alloys with carbides/ceramics
  • Topology optimization – Generating organic, bionic shapes with AM techniques

There are extensive opportunities to stretch limits and pioneer nickel alloy powder technologies through cross-disciplinary R&D. Government entities like the EU and USA have introduced special funding schemes to accelerate development of powder metallurgy innovation centers.

Nickel Alloy Powder Component Design

Several design considerations apply when using nickel alloy powders to manufacture end-use components:

General Design Guidelines

  • Optimize wall thickness and avoid dramatic changes
  • Include fillets in sharp corners
  • Minimize tall, isolated features
  • Check minimum draft angles for selected process
  • Follow consolidation method’s recommended geometries
  • Account for post-processing steps in dimensions

MIM-Specific Advice

  • Keep overall length below 50mm
  • Use consistent wall thicknesses
  • Include filling heads and hot runner gates
  • Watch out for steel tool wear with abrasive powders

AM-Specific Pointers

  • No geometric constraints! Go wild.
  • Utilize lattice structures and organic shapes
  • Remember support structure requirements

Component design must account for quirks of powder consolidation techniques as well as intended functionality.

Safety Measures for Nickel Alloy Powders

Handling nickel alloy powders demands certain precautions:

  • Use appropriate PPE – gloves, respirators, goggles as needed
  • Ensure adequate ventilation and dust collection
  • Prevent powder exposure during consolidation
  • Follow flammability ratings – some powders are pyrophoric
  • Contain spills immediately using appropriate cleanup methods
  • Dispose according to local environmental regulations

Any production or research activities with nickel alloy powder should include comprehensive risk assessments and incorporate all necessary systems to mitigate health, explosion, and environmental hazards appropriately. Personnel need sufficient training for safe handling procedures.

nickel alloy powder


Q: What particle size nickel alloy powder is best for additive manufacturing?

A: 15-45 micron spherical powders work well across most AM methods to balance spreadability, flowability and high density consolidation. Finer 10-25 micron powder can resolve finer features if the specific AM process allows it.

Q: Why choose metal injection molding for manufacturing with nickel alloy powders?

A: MIM allows high volume production of complex components with good dimensional accuracy and surface finishes. It maintains the alloy’s inherent properties well. The process is cost effective for small intricate nickel alloy parts.

Q: How are nickel alloy powders made spherical?

A: Inert gas atomization uses rapid solidification principles through smooth liquid breakup mechanisms mediated by gas flow turbulences to create largely spherical powder particle shapes with good flow characteristics.

Q: What are common applications for low expansion nickel alloys?

A: Precision instruments, optical mirrors, electronics packaging, aerospace structures, radiation shields, thermal isolation links, composites with low CTE requirements utilize controlled expansion nickel alloys.

Q: Why is flowability an important nickel alloy powder characteristic?

A: Powders must spread and flow smoothly into mold cavities completely and rapidly to avoid defects. Testing methods like Hall flow rate help quantify this behavior which impacts consolidation and properties.

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