Additive manufacturing with metal powder

Additive manufacturing with metal powder

The automatic feeding of 3D printers for the additive manufacturing of metal parts requires a high level of experience with the handling of critical raw materials.

The requirements are diverse:

  • Uninterrupted supply of one or more 3D printers with metal powder
  • Storage, provision, conditioning, transport and processing of various powders
  • Screening of virgin material and processed metal powder
  • Economic efficiency and careful use of resources due to reuse of unmelted metal powder
  • Operator protection against respirable and toxic metal powders
  • Explosion protection for explosive metal powders

The solution

Printer feeding with metal powder (diagram)

Unique selling points:

  • Operator, product and explosion protection due to completely inerted handling of the metal powder (introduction, processing, preparation and discharge). Danger from escaping inert gases is excluded by sensors and their reliable evaluation
  • Reliable handling even of poorly flowing, fine-grained metal powder
  • Ultrasonic screener with reliable coarse discharge
  • A glovebox with a refill option during the printing process is available for reactive and harmful metal powders
  • Central system: One glovebox serves several screening modules
  • Data evaluation and analysis of the machine and process data possible with additional tools

AZO is the expert for automatic raw material handling

The more complicated the raw material, the more we are in our element

The systems for printer feeding essentially consist of three areas. In the glovebox, the material is supplied, while in the screen module, the preparation and conveying to the printer module takes place. The printer module supplies the printer with new or prepared powder and takes over the removal of the unmelted powder.
The system can be flexibly designed for the various raw material properties, feed options and conveying quantities.
Diagram of printer feed


With the system empty and a new printer to be loaded, the containers with metal powder are first fed through the loading door into the glovebox. The glovebox is then flooded with inert gas. With the help of the gloves, the plastic bottles or canisters can be safely emptied into the subsequent storage container.
In the next step, the powder is pneumatically transported to one or more screening modules. These are integrated directly into the 3D printer. The recycling of unused powder takes place either directly during the layer generation (layering) or after a completed print job from the printer room. If the powder is not to remain in the circuit, it can be discharged under a protective gas atmosphere.

Screening module

The powder fed through the glovebox is pneumatically conveyed to the screening module, where it is prepared by an ultrasonic screener. The high-frequency ultrasonic vibration ensures efficient and gentle screening of the powder. The fines fall through the screen into the fines outlet, from where they are conveyed pneumatically to the printing module. The coarse material contained is transported over the screen surface and thus reaches the coarse material outlet, where it is discharged from the process. Thanks to the vibrations, the screen surface cleans itself already during operation, which extends the cleaning intervals and, in the same step, reduces the setup times of the machine.
Screening module

Printer module

The metal powder, which is pneumatically conveyed to the printer module, separated from the conveying gas in the receiver and can feed up to two machine inlets via a distribution screw. The conveying system is atmospherically separated from the printer room by a flap lock in order to prevent pressure fluctuations in the printer room. Depending on the printer design, the stripped powder is provided in a hopper for the return to the powder supply module.
Printer module

Contact person

Klaus Kilian | Director Technique Additive Manufacturing

Klaus Kilian
Director Technique Additive Manufacturing

AZO GmbH + Co. KG | Tom Friedenberger | International Key Account Manager

Tom Friedenberger
Director Sales Additive Manufacturing