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PyroGenesis awarded US patent for NexGen plasma atomization powder

The patent describes the innovative aspects of the NexGen system that create the potential for higher and more efficient production rates

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PyroGenesis Canada Inc., a high-tech company that designs, develops, manufactures, and commercializes advanced plasma processes and sustainable solutions that are geared to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and address environmental pollutants, has been awarded a patent (US 11839918) from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for its NexGen plasma atomization powder.

This US patent, titled, “Method and Apparatus for Producing High Purity Spherical Metallic Powders at High Production Rates From One or Two Wires”, describes the company’s NexGen plasma atomization technology for producing metal powder for use in additive manufacturing. In particular, the patent describes the innovative aspects of the NexGen system that create the potential for higher and more efficient production rates, including a two-wire simultaneous feedstock approach where the wires themselves are electrically charged prior to reaching the plasma atomization step.

“The NexGen process is a significant departure from conventional plasma atomization, as the improved efficiency from NexGen not only targets higher production rates, but also narrower particle size distribution for more uniformity and consistency, and an ability to tailor particle size distribution (PSD) to customer requirements,” said Pierre Carabin, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Strategist at PyroGenesis, and the co-inventor of the technology. “For PyroGenesis, that means producing more powder in a single system and with only a single plasma torch – in accordance with our commodity security and optimization business strategy. For our customers, that means they receive the finest, most spherically-consistent, and densest powders from typical plasma atomization, but with the added benefits of buying from a North American-based source that offers higher yield and less waste of a recognized critical mineral, while also being more energy efficient – helping them to reduce their carbon footprint and meet their Scope 3 emissions targets.”

Traditional plasma atomization – using either a single wire centrally fed through a plasma torch, or three plasma torches aiming at one centrally-positioned wire – has the primary disadvantage of having a relatively low production rate in comparison to water and gas atomization, because plasma atomization is a very energetically inefficient process.

To combat this, PyroGenesis Additive’s NexGen system feeds two separate spools of metal wire (such as titanium) that are first electrically charged, creating an electrical arc that melts the wire before a plasma torch atomizes the melted wire into powder particles using a supersonic plasma stream. This results in a more efficient atomization of the metal – raising production output significantly.

“Plasma atomization is considered the gold standard for the production of additive manufacturing powder,” said Massimo Dattilo, Vice President of PyroGenesis Additive. “PyroGenesis not only invented the process, but coined the name, which is now widely used in the industry. Because of our dedication to continuous improvement, when we decided to re-enter the market, we did so with a mandate to advance plasma atomization to the next level through a redesigned system we named “NexGen”. The confirmation of this US patent for NexGen is a key validation of our approach and another major box checked in our market re-entry progress.”

The company has patents pending in Canada and other global jurisdictions for the same NexGen plasma atomization process.

“The substantially improved efficiency of NexGen, which has shifted the particle size distribution of our production runs, means the larger average amount of finer cut powder we can produce per run also includes fine powders in the 5μm – 20μm range suitable for use in binder jetting and metal injection molding (MIM). We see MIM – in addition to the fine powders we can offer for laser bed applications – as a key market ahead, as more companies especially in consumer electronics continue to move from stainless steel to titanium to achieve weight and corrosion reduction,” added Dattilo.

After several years of R&D, the company recently achieved full commercialization and entrance into the titanium metal powders marketplace with its first by-the-ton commercial order.

“With a goal to produce the highest quality metal powders in the additive manufacturing industry, PyroGenesis Additive has taken a cautious, methodical approach over the past few years as we designed, then readied, our new NexGen plasma atomization process,” said P. Peter Pascali, President and CEO PyroGenesis Canada Inc. “With full commercialization achieved, and now with the US patent confirmed for our technology, we look forward with great optimism regarding our future, with an ever-widening range of metal powder offerings becoming available to the additive manufacturing industry.”

The company’s development of high-quality titanium metal powders is part of its three-tiered solution ecosystem that aligns with economic drivers that are key to global heavy industry. Metal powders are part of the company’s Commodity Security and Optimization tier, where the recovery of viable metals, and the optimization of production to increase output, helps to maximize raw materials and improve the availability of critical minerals. Titanium has been identified as a critical mineral by the Canadian government and many other governments worldwide.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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