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Chicken and Egg for Powdered Metal

Posted on December 14th, 2016 by in New Materials & Applications


Image by Pezibear [CC0 1.0 Universal], via Pixabay

Forecast to grow more than 17X over the next ten years, is it the demand for nickel-based powders or their availability at volume that’s fueling penetration for additive manufacturing?

A classic “chicken and egg” question arose for me after reading an article published in Geology for Investors about the meteoric growth forecast for nickel alloys in additive manufacturing. Based on a new report from SmarTech Publishing entitled “Opportunities for Nickel Alloys in Additive Manufacturing – 2017: An Opportunity Analysis and Ten-Year Forecast,” the worldwide market is projected to grow from $28 million in 2015 to more than $520 million in 2026. My curiosity was whether the forecast confidence was from a market pull or from a technology push? Which came first, the nickel-based powder egg or the additive manufacturing application chicken?

As technology advances, there is always a chasm to hurdle. The new approach not only has to be technologically viable, but also economically viable. Will the new material of approach fulfill the performance characteristics of the application as well as the ability to be economically and safely produced at scale. With major aerospace companies such as Airbus, Boeing, and GE announcing new applications of additive manufacturing seemingly daily, a sustainable demand for superalloys appears to be available.

Interestingly, powdered metallurgy is not new. It has been used for decades to cost effectively manufacture precision parts. Unlike additive manufacturing however, parts are first pressed into a net shape, then sintered to coalesce into a solid. Have a look at the following video to learn more about the process:

Whether it’s aerospace companies finding applications for additive manufacturing that require nickel alloys or it’s metal suppliers speculatively putting powdered nickel alloys into the market, it appears we’ll see broader range of interesting parts in end products. I’ll personally be examining the cabin of each commercial airline flight I take to see what I can find.

What materials are required for your product lines and how would their availability in powdered form change your production processes? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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