3D printing involves the use of a variety of gases at different stages of the production chain.The latter essentially begins with the production of the powders used in 3D printing. Metallic powders are atomized with a gas jet to give them their spherical shape. Plastic powders, by contrast, undergo a cryogenic grinding process. This involves the use of liquid nitrogen. To guarantee their quality, some powders have to be permanently stored in a shielding gas atmosphere. Special containers filled with shielding gas are used for this purpose.
Depending on the specific process, printing a component involves the use of shielding gases, carrier gases and/or cooling gases. In the majority of printing processes, the type of gas required – and its purity – depends on the material. The following table provides an overview of possible shielding gases. Gases are also needed for subsequent treatment of components. This is done either through subsequent heat treatment designed to achieve homogeneous component properties or by carrying out a subsequent sintering process. Stress relieving annealing, a process that requires the use of a shielding gas, is the typical heat treatment. But other types of heat treatment may also be required.
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