Inconel Powder for AM

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The INCONEL alloys, in particular Inconel 625 and 718, are known for their ability to withstand high temperatures and corrosive environments. They are used in a wide range of industries including chemical processing, aerospace and industrial heating. INCONEL has excellent resistance to pitting, crevice and chloride corrosion as well as good oxidation and stress-corrosion cracking resistance. The alloys also provide excellent strength at elevated temperature and good creep resistance.

These properties are largely due to the formation of the intermetallic Ni3Nb phase, or gamma double prime (g’/g”). The g acts as a ‘glue’ on grain boundaries and prevents grains from growing in size when they are heated above their critical transformation temperature. The g’/g’ phases are controlled through the heat treatment cycle and play an important role in determining the resulting microstructures, mechanical properties and weldability of Inconel parts.

However, Inconel is not easy to shape or machine using traditional cold forming methods as it work hardens quickly and tends to plastically deform the workpiece or tool in successive machining passes. Additive manufacturing (AM) offers a way to build complex shapes from a powder without the need for machining, reducing both cost and time.

The present study explores the use of inconel powder for AM by printing a series of specimens from virgin and recycled INCONEL 718. The powders were analysed for particle size distribution (PSD), surface texture, rheological or flow characteristics and packing behaviour. The results showed that the recycling of the powder does not significantly alter its chemical composition compared to the virgin INCONEL 718. However, it does affect the deposited powder and part microstructures. The tapped density of the specimens was found to vary between the initial and deposited samples, possibly as a result of non-homogeneous solidification during the L-PBF process.