As a metal with the highest melting point and excellent hardness, the rapid prototyping of tungsten and its alloys has always been challenging. In fact, for a long time, the processing of tungsten products has also been a problem for people in the tungsten industry, and the processing process is only limited to the traditional powder metallurgy method. How to talk about the emerging model of 3D printing metal? Therefore, how to achieve tungsten 3D printing in national defense, military, and medical fields has a very important significance.
The special feature of tungsten metal is that its melting point can be as high as 3410±20 ° C, one of the important advantages of tungsten, and its products can be widely used. Still, in the field of 3D printing, it has also become a major technical difficulty to overcome. 3D printing tungsten also requires a basic raw material – spherical tungsten powder. Unlike the ordinary tungsten powder applied to cemented carbide, the spherical tungsten powder has a spherical appearance. It has the remarkable characteristics of good powder fluidity and high solid density.
The main methods for preparing spherical tungsten powder are generally divided into the following six kinds:
1) The ammonium para tungstate cycle REDOX method, that is, the traditional tungsten oxide multiple hydrogen reduction method, can obtain nearly spherical tungsten powder, and the manufacturing cost is low, but the spheroidization is not enough;
2) The granulation sintering method prepared Tungsten powder for spherical thermal spraying. Spherical tungsten powder with a particle size of 40~750μm was obtained. Tungsten powder has a low density and large particle size.
3) Tungsten hexafluoride as a raw material to produce fine particles (3~5μm) of spherical tungsten powder; the method involves a strong corrosive gas, the production conditions are relatively harsh, and in today’s society with high environmental requirements of the background of its large-scale production is still a certain distance;
4) Tungsten rod by rotating electrode DC arc plasma method to prepare spherical tungsten powder; this method can only prepare coarse particles of powder (150 ~ 1700μm), can not prepare small size fine spherical tungsten powder, and the equipment cost is very expensive;
5) Small particle size (40 ~ 650μm) of spherical tungsten powder is prepared from tungsten hexafluoride by vapor deposition. Because the process involves strongly corrosive hydrofluoric acid, the production conditions are harsh, and the environmental protection requirements are high, it isn’t easy to be widely used in practical applications;
6) Spherical tungsten powder can be obtained by periodizing and gas cooling tungsten powder with an inductively coupled plasma torch, which is also a good way to prepare high-quality spherical tungsten powder. However, the preparation method requires a large cooling chamber; the cooling chamber must be filled with high-purity argon, the cost is high, and the spheroidization rate of the powder after one treatment can only reach 85% to get all spherical powder; it is necessary to carry out multiple sorting and re-spheroidization process, which greatly increases the production cost.
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