Guide to FeCoNiCr Powder for Metal 3D Printing

Overview of FeCoNiCr Powder

FeCoNiCr, also known as Stellite 21 alloy, is a multipurpose cobalt-based superalloy powder used for metal 3D printing applications across aerospace, oil and gas, automotive, and medical industries.

Key properties of FeCoNiCr powder include:

AttributeDescription
CompositionIron, cobalt, nickel, chromium alloy
Density8.2 g/cc
Melting point1350°C
Key characteristicsHigh strength, corrosion resistance, wear resistance
Common trade namesStellite 21, Haynes Stellite 21, Deloro 21, Tribaloy T-401

FeCoNiCr is widely used for printing parts that require high hardness, abrasion resistance, and biocompatibility like orthopedic implants, tooling, and oil & gas components. It offers a versatile combination of mechanical properties using conventional metal 3D printing processes.

FeCoNiCr Powder

Applications of FeCoNiCr Powder

Thanks to its multipurpose material properties, FeCoNiCr has a diverse range of industrial applications:

IndustryApplications
AerospaceTurbine blades, landing gear components, engine parts
Oil and gasValves, wellhead components, downhole tools
AutomotiveValve components, pistons, turbocharger wheels
IndustrialExtrusion dies, injection molds, cutting tools
MedicalOrthopedic implants, prosthetics, dental devices

It is valued for critical applications exposed to abrasion, high temperatures, and corrosive environments. The ability to 3D print complex geometries out of FeCoNiCr grants additional design freedom.

Some specific uses cases include:

  • Turbine blades – High strength and heat resistance at elevated temperatures
  • Orthopedic implants – Biocompatibility and high wear performance
  • Extrusion dies – Withstands wear from continuous operation
  • Valves and seals – Corrosion resistance for oil and gas environments
  • Cutting tools – Hardness and wear properties for machining applications

FeCoNiCr enables lighter, more consolidated parts with improved mechanical properties over traditional manufacturing methods.

Characteristics of FeCoNiCr Powder for 3D Printing

FeCoNiCr powder used for additive manufacturing has the following composition and characteristics:

AttributeDetails
Chemical composition27-38% Cr, 35-55% Co, 15-25% Ni, 3-5% Fe
Particle shapeSpherical morphology with some satellites
Particle size15-45 microns diameter
FlowabilityExcellent flow properties, not agglomerated
Apparent densityTypically over 4 g/cc
Melting point1260-1350°C
Printing processBinder jetting, powder bed fusion

High powder quality and repeatable composition enables stable, high-density printing using FeCoNiCr. The spherical morphology provides smooth powder flow and uniform layer deposition.

Specialized gas atomization techniques produce FeCoNiCr powder meeting the strict size distributions required for metal AM processes. The ingredients are melted and spun into fine droplets that solidify into powder.

Metal 3D Printer Specifications for FeCoNiCr

Printing FeCoNiCr parts requires industrial metal 3D printers with the following typical capabilities:

ParameterSpecification
Build volume100-500 x 100-500 x 100-500 mm
Laser power300-500 W
Precision optics50-100 μm spot size
Layer thickness20-100 μm
Scanning speedUp to 10 m/s
Inert gasArgon or nitrogen
Powder handlingClosed-loop, automated systems
ControlsRobust software for production

Key requirements are high laser power for melting the FeCoNiCr alloy, fine layer thickness for resolution, and integrated powder handling systems.

Specialized hot-work tool steels or alumina ceramic build plates withstand the elevated temperatures. High performance inert gas filtration systems protect the optics from reactive metal powders.

Design Principles for 3D Printing with FeCoNiCr

To optimize parts printed from FeCoNiCr powder, the following design principles should be followed:

Design AreaGuidelines
Wall thicknessMinimum 1 mm walls, increase for load-bearing features
OverhangsMinimum 45° angles, use supports where needed
TolerancesAccount for ±0.2% dimensional accuracy and post-machining
Surface finishAs-printed is rough, machine, polish, or shot peen surfaces
Residual stressDesign to minimize warping, use stress relief heat treatments
Escape holesInclude drainage paths to remove loose powder

Simulating builds using the actual parameters and powder characteristics will validate the design. Topology optimization software can light-weight FeCoNiCr parts for better performance.

Typical Mechanical Properties of FeCoNiCr Alloy

Printed FeCoNiCr components exhibit the following approximate mechanical properties:

PropertyValue
Density8.2 g/cc
Hardness50 HRC
Tensile strength1050 MPa
Yield strength880 MPa
Elongation at break8%
Young’s modulus210 GPa

The properties make it well-suited for load-bearing components requiring high hardness and strength. Heat treatment can further enhance the alloy’s mechanical performance.

FeCoNiCr Powder

Suppliers of FeCoNiCr Powder for 3D Printing

Leading global suppliers of FeCoNiCr gas-atomized powder include:

CompanyProduct GradesTypical Pricing
Carpenter TechnologyStellite 21$100-200/kg
SandvikOsprey 21-IG$120-250/kg
AP&CFeCoNiCr, CoNiCrW$150-300/kg
PraxairTrillium 21$180-350/kg
TLS TechnikTermo 21$130-220/kg

Prices vary based on order volumes, composition, and particle size distribution. Custom alloys and particle characteristics may have higher pricing.

High quality FeCoNiCr powder tailored for AM processes is critical for achieving desired material properties in printed parts.

How to Choose a FeCoNiCr Powder Supplier

When selecting a FeCoNiCr powder supplier, the following factors should be considered:

FactorCriteria
Composition controlTight tolerances on elements like Cr, Co, Ni, C
Manufacturing processGas atomization preferred over water atomization
Particle size distributionD50 from 20-45 μm, tight particle ranges
Powder morphologySpherical shape and smooth surface
Technical supportR&D assistance, application data, testing
Quality certificationsISO 9001, AS9100, ISO 13485
Lead time and availabilityShort lead times, no long-term contracts
Reputation and referencesTrusted brand, case studies, customer reviews

Small trial samples can validate printability before purchasing large volumes of powder.

Printing Parameters for FeCoNiCr Alloy

To achieve high density parts when printing FeCoNiCr, typical laser powder bed fusion parameters include:

ParameterRange
Layer thickness20-50 μm
Laser power150-400 W
Beam diameter50-120 μm
Scan speed500-1000 mm/s
Hatch spacing50-150 μm
Shielding gasArgon, nitrogen
Build plate preheating200-400°C

Fine hatch spacing is used to limit porosity. Preheating the build plate minimizes residual stresses and curling. trial builds are required to dial in optimal parameters.

For directed energy deposition, higher laser powers from 1-4 kW are used with larger melt pools and thicker layers around 0.5 mm. Wire feed rates range from 2-10 g/min depending on part features.

Post-Processing Methods for FeCoNiCr Parts

After 3D printing, common post-processing steps for FeCoNiCr components include:

MethodPurpose
Support removalRemoving support structures from the printed part
Stress relievingReducing residual stresses through heat treatment
Hot isostatic pressingRemoving internal voids and increasing density
Surface finishingSmoothing rough as-printed surfaces through grinding or polishing
JoiningWelding multiple components together after printing
CoatingsElectroplating or DLC coatings for wear resistance

The right combination of post-processing depends on the application requirements. HIP and finishing are commonly used on functional FeCoNiCr parts see service.

Metallurgical Properties of Printed FeCoNiCr

Printing FeCoNiCr powder via laser powder bed fusion generates the following as-printed metallurgical characteristics:

AttributeTypical Result
MicrostructureDendritic, rapid solidification structure
PorosityLess than 1% with optimized parameters
Alloy homogeneityConsistent distribution of elements
Hardness550-650 HV, 50-55 HRC
Tensile strength1050-1200 MPa in XY plane
Surface roughness (Ra)Around 15 μm as-printed

The rapid solidification leads to a fine grain structure and extended solid solubility of the alloying elements compared to conventional processing.

Common Defects in FeCoNiCr Printed Parts

Some potential defects when printing FeCoNiCr parts include:

DefectCausesPrevention
WarpingResidual stresses from thermal gradientsOptimize scan strategy, use preheating
CrackingBrittle alloy, high stressesModify geometry, heat treat for ductility
AnisotropyDirectional microstructureRotate build orientation, stress relieve
Surface roughnessPartially melted powder, ballingAdjust scan speed, beam focus, powder size
InclusionsContaminants in powderUse high purity powder, filter inert gas
Dimensional accuracyShrinkage, thermal distortionsCalibrate machine, optimize support structures

Parameter optimization trials and rigorous quality control of incoming powder reduce defects.

Applications of Heat Treated FeCoNiCr Parts

Solution heat treating and age hardening allows tailoring the properties of printed FeCoNiCr components for:

ApplicationTypical Heat TreatmentBenefits
Aerospace turbines1240°C solution, 850°C agingIncreased tensile strength, creep resistance
Extrusion tooling1150°C solution, air cooledImproved hardness, wear resistance
Automotive valves1200°C solution, air quenchingHigher strength for fatigue resistance
Cutting tools1080°C aging for 16 hoursMaximize hardness to resist abrasion

Heat treatment tailors the microstructure and precipitate formation to achieve the desired properties. Printed FeCoNiCr offers flexibility in heat treatment response.

Qualifying Printed FeCoNiCr Parts

Printed FeCoNiCr components require the following testing and inspection to qualify parts for end-use:

Testing MethodTypical Acceptance Criteria
Visual inspectionNo cracks, surface anomalies, powder inclusions
Leak testingVerify sealed components have no internal leaks
Dimensional analysisCritical dimensions within engineering tolerance
Density measurementGreater than 99% relative density
Tensile testingMechanical properties meet or exceed minimum values
MicrostructureVerify uniform, defect-free grain structure

Non-destructive testing like CT scanning can find internal voids without cutting test coupons. Thorough testing ensures reliable performance in service.

Key Applications of FeCoNiCr Alloy

The unique properties of FeCoNiCr make it well-suited for:

ApplicationBenefits
Aerospace turbine bladesWithstands 700°C temperatures and wear
Automotive valve seats and guidesResists wear and high temperature exhaust gases
Medical implantsBiocompatible with excellent corrosion resistance
Extrusion toolingHardness and abrasion resistance at 900°C
Downhole drilling componentsHigh strength in corrosive, high pressure environments

3D printing enables lighter, consolidated components with enhanced performance in these demanding applications.

Economic Benefits of FeCoNiCr vs. Traditional Materials

For many applications, printed FeCoNiCr provides cost and performance advantages over conventional materials like tool steel, stainless steel, and Inconel superalloys:

FeCoNiCrComparison Material
Density8.2 g/cc7.5-8.4 g/cc
Hardness50-55 HRC30-55 HRC
Strength1050 MPa550-1200 MPa
Wear resistanceExcellentModerate to excellent
Corrosion resistanceExcellentPoor to excellent
Cost per kg$100-300$20-500

FeCoNiCr provides an optimal balance of properties and cost, making it competitive for the most demanding applications.

Sustainability Benefits of Metal 3D Printing with FeCoNiCr

Additive manufacturing with FeCoNiCr powder offers sustainability advantages versus conventional manufacturing:

  • Reduced waste – Print only the required material instead of machining away material
  • Lightweighting – Optimize designs for weight reduction and material savings
  • Part consolidation – Combine assemblies into single printed parts
  • On-demand production – Print parts as needed instead of mass production
  • High scrap recyclability – Unused powder can be reused for future prints
  • Localized production – Reduce shipping and logistics carbon footprint

The technology enables more sustainable engineering approaches across the product lifecycle. FeCoNiCr is an excellent green material choice.

FeCoNiCr Powder

FAQ

QuestionAnswer
What particle size is best for printing FeCoNiCr?20-45 microns is optimal. Too fine causes poor flow, too coarse reduces resolution.
What are some alternatives to FeCoNiCr alloy?Inconel 718, stainless steel 316L, and 17-4PH offer similar properties.
What finish can be obtained on printed FeCoNiCr parts?As-printed surface is rough at Ra 15-20 μm. Polishing can achieve under 1 μm finish.
Is FeCoNiCr susceptible to cracking during printing?Yes, careful preheating and strategic scanning helps reduce cracking tendencies.
What post-processing is required?Support removal, stress relieving, HIP, and surface finishing are typically used.

Summary

  • FeCoNiCr alloy powder enables versatile properties for demanding applications via metal AM processes.
  • Excellent wear resistance, strength, biocompatibility, and corrosion resistance.
  • Widely used in aerospace, oil and gas, automotive, medical industries.
  • Gas atomization provides optimal powder morphology and composition.
  • Industrial printers with parameters tuned for FeCoNiCr are required.
  • Strict quality control and testing required to qualify printed components.
  • Offers performance and cost advantages over conventional materials.
  • An economical choice for high value add metal printing applications.

The unique capabilities of FeCoNiCr powder make it an important material for advancing industrial metal 3D printing.

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