Powdered Metals Storage

What Are Powdered Metals?

Powdered metals are metals that have been milled or manufactured as fine particles for further processing. Aluminum, copper, magnesium, cobalt, nickel and stainless steel are some of the typical types of metals used in industry. For additive manufacturing processes, the particle size of powdered metals is in the range 25 to 150 microns, but for powder metallurgy, the particle size is normally much bigger.

What are the applications for powdered metals?

Metal powders are used in a variety of industries including:

  • Chemical processes
  • Printing
  • Surface coatings
  • Welding

Industries where metals are exposed to wear and corrosion use thermal surfacing to coat their materials using metal powder. The chemicals sector uses metal powder as an additive for resins and paints to give a metallic appearance to the finished look of the product. Advances in 3D printing have created a use for metal powders to manufacture parts.

Dangers of improper storage

Metal powders must be handled with extreme care due to the hazards associated with the product and the risk of contamination.

Some metal powders are combustible in standard atmospheric conditions. All alkali metals are known to be flammable (e.g. lithium and potassium). Aluminum, magnesium and titanium can also ignite under the right conditions. Inert blankets are the ideal control mechanism to contain this hazardous characteristic of metal powders.

Reactive metal pairs will automatically react with one another when mixed and are most often not able to be extinguished until the reaction is complete. Aluminum and Nickel is one such example. Care must be taken when storing these metal powders so that there is no chance of accidental mixing.

The dust from metal powders is hazardous to inhale and can be an irritant to eyes and skin. When metal powders are not stored and handled in a controlled environment, metal dust can be generated that is detrimental to the health of employees. The human body has limited capacity to process metals once ingested.

Metal powder can be spilled resulting in large losses and creating risks associated with cleaning up the material. A 3D printing company was cited by OSHA after an employee was injured in an explosion and fire. Investigations showed that a vacuum cleaner was used to clean up metal powder, which ignited due to a build up of static energy. The employee suffered 3rd degree burns, and the company faced fines of up to $64,000 as a result of this incident and associated investigation.

Storage Solutions for Metal Powders

Storage units for metal powders are designed according to regulatory standards and have safety attributes that meet the requirements for the specific metal powder being stored. Some of these attributes are inert blankets to eliminate the presence of oxygen, fire-rated wall construction, automated fire detection and dry powder application. Electrical standards and earthing requirements are also critical to prevent the build up of static electricity and other ignition sources.

A key document in the handling and storage of metal powders is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that accompanies the product. The MSDS highlights the physical and chemical characteristics of the product, hazards, applicable precautions, and other recommendations.

Contact Us

Contact US Chemical Storage to learn more about storage lockers for metal powders or to receive a complimentary quote.

 

Standards associated with combustible metals:

  • NFPA 484 Standard for Combustible Metals, Metal Powders and Metal Dusts
  • NFPA 654 Standard for the Prevention of Fires and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids
  • OSHA 3371 Hazard Communication Guidance for Combustible Dusts

References:

Engineering 360. Metal Powders Information

Australian Metal Powders Supplies. What metal powders are used for

Additive Manufacturing. Changing the rules

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