New plasma atomization reactor enables The Virtual Foundry to expand its range of exotic metals

As part of The Virtual Foundry’s continuing efforts to help its customers develop unique materials with exceptional physical properties for additive manufacturing, the advanced material science company has acquired a plasma atomization reactor.

This device uses plasma to melt and atomize metal, creating small, uniform, dense and spherical metal powders that are ideal for additive manufacturing. The Virtual Foundry uses them to create plastic impregnated filament via its patented process, which its customers can then use to print metal parts on any FDM printer.

“This process enables us to take solid pieces of pure metal and convert them into filament that can be used for additive manufacturing,“ explains Tricia Suess, president of The Virtual Foundry. 

Until recently, the number of metals available for 3D printing has been relatively limited. Exotic metals like titanium have been expensive, limiting their commercial applications. Plasma atomization helps to make metal additive manufacturing more accessible. It enables manufacturers to use materials that are currently not available for additive manufacturing.

“The reactor makes a lot more things possible. It has the potential to dramatically expand the range of materials that we can use to produce metal filament for our customers,“ Suess emphasizes. 

One current customer, an equipment manufacturer, wanted to 3D print engine parts using a high-carbon steel alloy. Without a supply of powdered metal, this product development project would have been dead in the water. Instead, the manufacturer provided The Virtual Foundry with several small chunks of this alloy, which it was able to convert into plastic-infused metal filament. Project saved!

Another breakthrough that the plasma atomization reactor makes possible is producing custom materials in a more affordable form for additive manufacturing. “If you can provide us with pure metal in solid form, we can transform it into filament for 3D printing,” she adds. 

Adding this capability to its arsenal of advanced materials science is part of The Virtual Foundry‘s efforts to democratize 3D printing. “In our vision, anyone who has a new product idea should be able to design it and produce it using affordable additive manufacturing technologies,“ Suess concludes.

Contact The Virtual Foundry’s sales team to discuss your needs at (608) 501-1568 or complete our contact form:

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