The purpose of this paper is to investigate the polyamide 12 (PA12) powder properties deterioration in the laser sintering (LS) process and propose a methodology for more efficient powder recycling. The main goals are: to recommend a level of input PA2200 powder properties which could guarantee acceptable part quality in the LS process; and selection of the refresh rate in order to minimise the consumption of fresh material.
The paper analyses the LS processing conditions and current recycling practices in relation to the deterioration or ageing of the PA12‐based powders. Samples of new and recycled grades of PA2200 powder were artificially aged in a temperature‐controlled oven and then tested using melt flow rate (MFR) indexer. Also, un‐sintered powder samples collected from different locations within various builds, and different LS machines (EOSINT P700 and Sinterstation® 2500 HiQ) were tested.
The powder exposed at higher temperature and longer time experiences a much higher deterioration rate. The temperature and the time at which the un‐sintered material was exposed are the most influential parameters for the powder aging. It was confirmed that the MFR index is a very sensitive indicator of the changes in the powder properties and provides a relatively fast and inexpensive method of measuring the rate of the powder degradation because of the LS process. The powder located in the periphery and the top of a build has a higher MFR and therefore is less deteriorated. In contrast, powder located in the centre, or in the bottom of a long build has much lower MFR and therefore is less usable.
Based on the findings, a methodology for powder recycling is proposed. It allows a better control of the input material properties, a consistent quality of the fabricated parts, and more efficient use of the LS material.
The paper provides some useful information for the properties deterioration of PA12‐based powders (PA2200) in relation to the temperature and time at which the material is exposed in the LS.
Dotchev, K. and Yusoff, W. (2009), "Recycling of polyamide 12 based powders in the laser sintering process", Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 192-203. https://doi.org/10.1108/13552540910960299
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