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The Formulation of Titanium - based Metal Feedstocks and the Fabrication of Parts using the Powder Injection Moulding Process

Development of a profitable titanium industry for New Zealand will not come about without innovative technologies. Plastic injection moulding has long held a place in NZ manufacturing to produce large quantities of complex parts and holds the key to such innovation. Titanium metal parts were fabricated by injection moulding titanium based metal powder feedstock followed by a debinding process and subsequent sintering. The fabrication process in its entirety was investigated in four distinct steps. Feedstock formulation involved combining the metal powders with various carrier components. Injection moulding enabled the shaping of the feedstock into geometries approximating the final part. Debinding being the process whereby the carrier/binder system is removed from the part to create a powder compact retaining the required geometry. Sintering being the final step where the metal powders are consolidated into a fully dense metal part of net shape. The feedstock binder consisted of water soluble polyethylene glycol that reduced feedstock viscosity, improved particle wetting, aided greenpart shape retention and eliminated toxic solvents in debinding. Carnauba wax and bees wax aided dispersion, lubricated particles, were safe to handle and better for the environment (than petroleum waxes). Their low melt temperatures aided removal during thermal debinding and supported residue elimination. By optimising the ratio of water soluble, wax and polyolefin binder components (3: 2: 1 respectively) for melt flow and pellet formation, greenparts defect free with uniform particle distribution were made. The optimal binder system proved suitable for titanium alloy and irregular shape pure titanium powders (hydride-de-hydride). Increasing powder loading (wP = (0.60 to 0.65)) had no appreciable effect on viscosity while enabling feedstock with good uniformity and pellet formation. Dimensional change was not affected by uniformity of the feedstock however molecular weight, volume and dispersion of binder components affected interparticular distances. Low processing temperatures reduced disruption to part geometry, benefitted particle bonding and helped retain handling strength. The use of low temperatures for thermal debinding (t = 250 °C) enabled removal of the binder below the temperatures that facilitate interstitial diffusion and oxide/carbide formation, although part thickness, mass and overall volume effected the processing time. A strong correlation was seen between handling strength of the greenparts and defects, such as non-uniform density distribution and cracking after sintering. Sintering was essential to produce the final part and showed that a binder free brownpart was not the only criteria for eliminating impurities. The furnace atmosphere must remain free from contamination to eliminate transfer back to the parts. This was addressed using an argon sweep gas, however, the design and efficacy of the system was considered inadequate. Decomposition products need to be removed quickly from the furnace as they evolve before impurities from the sweep gas diffuse back into the parts during the extended duration at sinter temperatures (t = 1300 °C). The combination of an optimised titanium feedstock and the use of a low temperature thermal debinding technique produced a consolidated MIM part of relatively large dimensions. The parts were seen to have uniform microstructure throughout the cross-section with density comparable to that of MIM standards. In difference to the literature, a high powder loading (φp = 0.65) of HDH powders was used and shown to be readily mouldable. The higher powder loading also eliminate separation defects and shape distortions evident using lower amounts of powder.
Type of thesis
Ewart, P. D. (2015). The Formulation of Titanium - based Metal Feedstocks and the Fabrication of Parts using the Powder Injection Moulding Process (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9244
University of Waikato
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