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Powder Metallurgy

By S K Mondal
Powder Metallurgy
 Powder metallurgy is the name given to the
process by which fine powdered materials are
blended, pressed into a desired shape
(compacted), and then heated (sintered) in a
controlled atmosphere to bond the contacting
surfaces of the particles and establish the desired
Manufacturing of Powder
Atomization using a gas stream
Molten metal is
forced through a
small orifice and
is disintegrated by
a jet of
compressed air,
inert gas or water
jet,. It is used for
low melting point
materials, brass,
bronze, Zn, Tn,
Al, Pb etc.
Manufacturing of Powder
 Metal oxides are turned to pure metal powder when
exposed to below melting point gases results in a
product of cake of sponge metal.
 The irregular sponge-like particles are soft, readily
compressible, and give compacts of good pre-sinter
(“green”) strength
 Used for iron, Cu, tungsten, molybdenum, Ni and
Manufacturing of Powder
Electrolytic Deposition
 Used for iron, copper, silver
 Process is similar to electroplating.
 For making copper powder, copper plates are placed as
anode in the tank of electrolyte, whereas the aluminium
plates are placed in the electrolyte to act as cathode.
When DC current is passed, the copper gets deposited
on cathode. The cathode plated are taken out and
powder is scrapped off. The powder is washed, dried and
pulverized to the desired grain size.
 The cost of manufacturing is high.
Manufacturing of Powder
Granulations - as metals are cooled they are stirred rapidly
Machining - coarse powders such as magnesium
Milling - crushers and rollers to break down metals. Used for
brittle materials.
Shooting - drops of molten metal are dropped in water, used
for low melting point materials.
Condensation – Metals are boiled to produce metal vapours
and then condensed to obtain metal powders. Used for Zn,
Mg, Cd.
GATE -2011 (PI)
Which of the following powder production
methods produces spongy and porous particles?
(a) Atomization
(b) Reduction of metal oxides
(c) Electrolytic deposition
(d) Pulverization
IES - 2012
In electrolysis
(a) For making copper powder, copper plate is made
cathode in electrolyte tank
(b) For making aluminum powder, aluminum plate is
made anode
(c) High amperage produces powdery deposit of cathode
metal on anode
(d) Atomization process is more suitable for low melting
point metals
Characteristics of metal powder:
 Fineness: refers to particle size of powder, can be
determined either by pouring the powder through a sieve or
by microscopic testing. A standard sieves with mesh size
varies between (100) and (325) are used to determine
particle size and particle size distribution of powder in a
certain range.
 Particle size distribution: refers to amount of each particle
size in the powder and have a great effect in determining
flowability, apparent density and final porosity of product.
 Blending or mixing operations can be done either dry or wet.

 Lubricants such as graphite or stearic acid improve the flow

characteristics and compressibility at the expense of reduced
 Binders produce the reverse effect of lubricants.
Thermoplastics or a water-soluble methylcellulose binder is
 Most lubricants or binders are not wanted in the final
product and are removed ( volatilized or burned off)
 Powder is pressed into a “green compact”

 40 to 1650 MPa pressure (Depends on materials,

product complexity)

 Still very porous, ~70% density

 May be done cold or warm (higher density)

 Controlled atmosphere: no oxygen

 Heat to 0.75*T melt

 Particles bind together, diffusion, recrystalization

and grain growth takes place.
 Part shrinks in size

 Density increases, up to 95%

 Strength increases, Brittleness reduces, Porosity

decreases. Toughness increases.
Cold Isostatic Pressing (CIP)
 The powder is contained in a flexible mould made of
rubber or some other elastomer material

 The flexible mould is then pressurized by means of

high-pressure water or oil. (same pressure in all

 No lubricant is needed

 High and uniform density can be achieved

Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP)
 Is carried out at high temperature and pressure using a
gas such as argon.
 The flexible mould is made of sheet metal. (Due to high
 Compaction and sintering are completed
 Used in the production of billets of super-alloys, high-
speed steels, titanium, ceramics, etc, where the integrity
of the materials is a prime consideration
IES – 2007 Conventional
 Metal powders are compacted by many methods, but
sintering is required to achieve which property? What
is hot iso-static pressing?
[ 2 Marks]
GATE -2010 (PI)
In powder metallurgy, sintering of a component

(a) Improves strength and reduces hardness

(b) Reduces brittleness and improves strength

(c) Improves hardness and reduces toughness

(d) Reduces porosity and increases brittleness

IES – 2011 Conventional
 What is isostatic pressing of metal powders ?
 What are its advantage ?
[ 2 Marks]
Production of magnets
 50:50 Fe-Al alloys is used for magnetic parts
 Al-Ni-Fe is used for permanent magnets
 Sintering is done in a wire coil to align the magnetic
poles of the material
 H2 is used to rapidly cool the part (to maintain magnetic
 Total shrinkage is approximately 3-7% (for accurate parts
an extra sintering step may be added before magnetic
 The sintering temperature is 600°C in H2
 Good tolerances and surface finish
 Highly complex shapes made quickly
 Can produce porous parts and hard to manufacture
materials (e.g. cemented oxides)
 Pores in the metal can be filled with other
 Surfaces can have high wear resistance
 Porosity can be controlled
 Low waste
 Automation is easy
Advantages Contd….

 Physical properties can be controlled

 Variation from part to part is low

 Hard to machine metals can be used easily

 No molten metals

 No need for many/any finishing operations

 Permits high volume production of complex shapes

 Allows non-traditional alloy combinations

 Good control of final density

GATE – 2009 (PI)
Which of the following process is used to
manufacture products with controlled porosity?

(a) Casting

(b) welding

(c) formation

(d) Powder metallurgy

 Metal powders deteriorate quickly when stored
 Fixed and setup costs are high
 Part size is limited by the press, and compression of the
powder used.
 Sharp corners and varying thickness can be hard to
 Non-moldable features are impossible to produce.
 Oil-impregnated bearings made from either iron or
copper alloys for home appliance and automotive
 P/M filters can be made with pores of almost any size.
 Pressure or flow regulators.
 Small gears, cams etc.
 Products where the combined properties of two or more
metals (or both metals and nonmetals) are desired.
 Cemented carbides are produced by the cold-
compaction of tungsten carbide powder in a binder, such
as cobalt ( 5 to 12%), followed by liquid-phase sintering.
Pre - Sintering
 If a part made by PM needs some machining, it will be
rather very difficult if the material is very hard and
strong. These machining operations are made easier by
the pre-sintering operation which is done before
sintering operation.
 Repressing is performed to increase the density and
improve the mechanical properties.

 Further improvement is achieved by re-sintering.

 Component is dipped into a low melting-temperature
alloy liquid

 The liquid would flow into the voids simply by capillary

action, thereby decreasing the porosity and improving
the strength of the component.

 The process is used quite extensively with ferrous parts

using copper as an infiltrate but to avoid erosion, an alloy
of copper containing iron and manganese is often used.
 Impregnation is similar to infiltration
 PM component is kept in an oil bath. The oil penetrates
into the voids by capillary forces and remains there.
 The oil is used for lubrication of the component when
necessary. During the actual service conditions, the oil is
released slowly to provide the necessary lubrication.
 The components can absorb between 12% and 30% oil by
 It is being used on P/M self-lubricating bearing
components since the late 1920's.
Oil-impregnated Porous Bronze Bearings
IES 2010
Consider the following parts:
1. Grinding wheel
2. Brake lining
3. Self-lubricating bearings
Which of these parts are made by powder
metallurgy technique?
(a) 1, 2 and 3 (b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only (d) 1 and 2 only
IES – 2002
The rate of production of a powder metallurgy part
depends on
(a) Flow rate of powder
(b) Green strength of compact
(c) Apparent density of compact
(d) Compressibility of powder
IES – 1999
The correct sequence of the given processes in
manufacturing by powder metallurgy is
(a) Blending, compacting, sintering and sizing
(b) Blending, compacting, sizing and sintering
(c) Compacting, sizing, blending and sintering
(d) Compacting, blending, sizing and sintering
IES – 1999
Assertion (A): In atomization process of manufacture of
metal powder, the molten metal is forced through a
small orifice and broken up by a stream of compressed
Reason (R): The metallic powder obtained by
atomization process is quite resistant to oxidation.
(a) Both A and R are individually true and R is the correct
explanation of A
(b) Both A and R are individually true but R is not the
correct explanation of A
(c) A is true but R is false
(d) A is false but R is true
IES - 2012
Statement (I): Parts made by powder metallurgy do not
have as good physical properties as parts casted.
Statement (II): Particle shape in powder metallurgy
influences the flow characteristic of the powder.
(a) Both Statement (I) and Statement (II) are
individually true and Statement (II) is the correct
explanation of Statement (I)
(b) Both Statement (I) and Statement (II) are
individually true but Statement (II) is not the correct
explanation of Statement (I)
(c) Statement (I) is true but Statement (II) is false
(d) Statement (I) is false but Statement (II) is true
IAS – 2003
In parts produced by powder metallurgy process,
pre-sintering is done to
(a) Increase the toughness of the component
(b) Increase the density of the component
(c) Facilitate bonding of non-metallic particles
(d) Facilitate machining of the part
GATE -2008 (PI)
Match the following
Group – 1 Group -2
P. Mulling 1. Powder metallurgy
Q. Impregnation 2. Injection moulding
R. Flash trimming 3. Processing of FRP composites
S. Curing 4. Sand casting

(a) P – 4, Q – 3, R – 2, S – 1 (b) P – 2, Q – 4, R – 3, S - 1
(c) P – 2, Q – 1, R – 4, S – 3 (d) P – 4, Q – 1, R – 2, S - 3
Conventional Questions
1. Explain why metal powders are blended. Describe what
happens during sintering. [IES-2010, 2 Marks]
Conventional Questions
1. Discuss the terms fineness and particle size
distribution in powder metallurgy. [IES-2010, 2 Marks]
Fineness: Is the diameter of spherical shaped particle
and mean diameter of non-spherical shaped particle.
Particle size distribution: Geometric standard
deviation (a measure for the bredth or width of a
distribution), is the ratio of particle size diameters
taken at 84.1 and 50% of the cumulative undersized
weight plot, respectively and mean mass diameter
define the particle size distribution.
Conventional Questions
Enumerate the steps involved in “powder metallurgy”
process. Discuss these steps. Name the materials used
in “powder metallurgy”. What are the limitations of
powder metallurgy? [IES-2005, 10 Marks]
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 Produce a liquid-metal
stream by injecting molten
metal through a small
 Stream is broken by jets of
inert gas, air, or water
 The size of the particle
formed depends on the
temperature of the metal,
metal flowrate through the
orifice, nozzle size and jet
 A consumable electrode is
rotated rapidly in a helium-
filled chamber. The
centrifugal force breaks up
the molten tip of the
electrode into metal
Fe powders made by atomization Ni-based superalloy made by
the rotating electrode process
 Reduce metal oxides with H2/CO
 Powders are spongy and porous and they have uniformly
sized spherical or angular shapes

Electrolytic deposition
 Metal powder deposits at the cathode from aqueous solution
 Powders are among the purest available

 React high purity Fe or Ni with CO to form gaseous carbonyls
 Carbonyl decomposes to Fe and Ni
 Small, dense, uniformly spherical powders of high purity
 Crushing
 Milling in a ball mill
 Powder produced
 Brittle: Angular
 Ductile: flaky and not particularly suitable for P/M
Mechanical Alloying
 Powders of two or more metals are mixed in a ball mill
 Under the impact of hard balls, powders fracture and join
together by diffusion
(a) Roll crusher, (b) Ball mill
 To make a homogeneous mass with uniform distribution of
particle size and composition
 Powders made by different processes have different sizes
and shapes
 Mixing powders of different metals/materials
 Add lubricants (<5%), such as graphite and stearic acid,
to improve the flow characteristics and compressibility
of mixtures
 Combining is generally carried out in
 Air or inert gases to avoid oxidation
 Liquids for better mixing, elimination of dusts and reduced
explosion hazards
 Hazards
 Metal powders, because of high surface area to volume ratio are
explosive, particularly Al, Mg, Ti, Zr, Th
Some common equipment geometries used for blending powders
(a) Cylindrical, (b) rotating cube, (c) double cone, (d) twin shell

 Press powder into the desired shape and size in dies using a
hydraulic or mechanical press
 Pressed powder is known as “green compact”
 Stages of metal powder compaction:
 Increased compaction pressure
 Provides better packing of particles and leads to ↓
 ↑ localized deformation allowing new contacts to be
formed between particles
 At higher pressures, the green density approaches density
of the bulk metal
 Pressed density greater than 90% of the bulk density is
difficult to obtain
 Compaction pressure used depends on desired density
 Smaller particles provide greater strength mainly due to
reduction in porosity
 Size distribution of particles is very important. For same
size particles minimum porosity of 24% will always be
 Box filled with tennis balls will always have open space between
 Introduction of finer particles will fill voids and result in↑ density
 Because of friction between (i) the metal particles and (ii)
between the punches and the die, the density within the
compact may vary considerably
 Density variation can be minimized by proper punch and
die design

(a) and (c) Single action press; (b) and (d) Double action press
(e) Pressure contours in compacted copper powder in single action press
Compaction pressure of some metal powders

Metal Powder Pressure (MPa)

Al 75-275
Al2O3 100-150
Brass 400-700
Carbon 140-170
Fe 400-800
W 75-150
WC 150-400
(a) Compaction of metal powder to form bushing
(b)Typical tool and die set for compacting spur gear
A 825 ton mechanical press for compacting metal powder
Cold Isostatic Pressing
 Metal powder placed in
a flexible rubber mold
 Assembly pressurized
hydrostatically by
water (400 – 1000
 Typical: Automotive
cylinder liners →
 FFT: Advantages?
 Green compact obtained after compaction is brittle and
low in strength
 Green compacts are heated in a controlled-atmosphere
furnace to allow packed metal powders to bond together
Carried out in three stages:

 First stage: Temperature is slowly increased so that all

volatile materials in the green compact that would
interfere with good bonding is removed
 Rapid heating in this stage may entrap gases and
produce high internal pressure which may fracture the
Second stage: High temperature stage

 Promotes solid-state
bonding by diffusion.
 Diffusion is time-
temperature sensitive.
Needs sufficient time
•Promotes vapour-phase
•Because material
heated very close to
MP, metal atoms will
be released in the
vapour phase from the
•Vapour phase
resolidifies at the
 Third stage: Sintered product is cooled in a controlled
 Prevents oxidation and thermal shock

Gases commonly used for sintering:

 H2, N2, inert gases or vacuum
Liquid Phase Sintering

 During sintering a liquid phase, from the lower MP

component, may exist
 Alloying may take place at the particle-particle interface
 Molten component may surround the particle that has not
 High compact density can be quickly attained
 Important variables:
 Nature of alloy, molten component/particle wetting,
capillary action of the liquid

Steps in HIP
 Simultaneous compaction + sintering
 Container: High MP sheet metal
 Container subjected to elevated temperature and a very
high vacuum to remove air and moisture from the
 Pressurizing medium: Inert gas
 Operating conditions
 100 MPa at 1100 C
Ch-12: Powder Metallurgy

Q. No Option Q. No Option
1 D 5 C
2 B 6 B
3 C 7 D
4 A 8 C