The Essential Tools That Are Driving Advanced Additive Manufacturing

05 Sep, 2022 | Guides & Resources
The Essential Tools That Are Driving Advanced Additive Manufacturing

Australia’s Additive manufacturing (AM) industry is off and running, transforming the way we produce and distribute goods. Parts which required multiple components to assemble manually can now be produced more viably using AM in a one-step build process. It removes the need for complex shipping arrangements to move instruments from place to place, relying instead on digital files to print products on-demand. In the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, 3D printing stepped up to become a vital technology to provide solutions to severe disruptions in supply chains ranging from personal protective equipment (PPE) to emergency dwellings to isolate patients. From aerospace to automotive engineering, and from the medical to the dental industry, AM is an evolving technology revolutionising industries across the country.1

Backed by the Australian Government ‘Modern Manufacturing Strategy’ as well as the funding available for the sector, has enabled new manufacturing-focused research facilities that work alongside industry.2 With new opportunities to deliver cutting-edge R&D in AM and materials processing, highly complex or previously unachievable products can be created quickly and efficiently for the global market. CSIRO established Lab22 with a vision to grow a new manufacturing industry as Australia’s Centre for Additive Innovation citing a recent focus on critical mineral and hybrid manufacturing.3 The University of Sydney and GE Additive have also joined forces to collaborate on R&D topics and demonstrate AM technology via the new Sydney Manufacturing Hub.4 These and many other AM research facilities in Australia underpin a growing AM industry helping to build sovereign capabilities. Instead of sending processed ores overseas and importing them back as powders, Australia can forge on finding ways to turn minerals into new AM innovations. 

But as exciting as the possibilities are in AM, the process itself is not without its challenges. Problems with final product consistency and a narrow range of expensive raw materials are some of the biggest obstacles to the widespread adoption of AM. In processes that use powder as the raw material, for example, just one particle could contaminate the rest of the material, impacting the overall quality of the end product. To maintain consistent high quality in these components, producers need to ensure that their input materials are carefully monitored and optimised. 

Why particle characterisation is critical 

Key to developing and manufacturing high quality materials with the required functionality and performance is understanding the relationship between material structure and material properties. From metals and polymers to composites and ceramics, monitoring the particle size and shape is important to ensure the powder supply is consistent and meets specifications. Beyond quality control, it also plays a vital role when investigating novel alloys or composites or developing a new AM process.

Below are two key analytical tools that support additive manufacturers with material characterisation.

The use of laser diffraction for particle size distribution

Particle size distribution is critical for powder bed AM processes since it affects powder bed packing and flowability which in-turn impacts on build quality and final component properties. The Malvern Mastersizer 3000 uses laser diffraction, an established technique for measuring the particle size distribution of metal, ceramic and polymer powders for additive manufacturing, and is employed by powder producers, component manufacturers and machine manufacturers worldwide to qualify and optimise powder properties. A complete high-resolution particle size distribution is provided in a matter of minutes (from 10 nm to 3.5 mm) using either wet or dry dispersion. The technique can also be integrated into a process line to provide real-time particle sizing.5

Automated Image Analysis for particle shape and composition

Powder bed density and powder flowability are influenced by particle size and shape. Particle morphology is therefore, another important metric for powder bed additive manufacturing, with smooth, regular-shaped particles preferable as they can flow and pack more easily than those with a rough surface and irregular shape. The Malvern Morphologi 4-ID provides automated optical image analysis to classify and quantify the size and shape of metal, ceramic and polymer powders. The fully integrated Raman spectrometer also enables component-specific morphological descriptions of chemical species.

The Phenom ParticleX AM is a specialised high-resolution desktop scanning electron microscope (SEM) dedicated to optimising AM metal powders and final product quality. By combining an imaging resolution of <8nm and magnifications up to 200,000x together with X-ray analysis (EDS) for elemental composition, properties such as structural integrity, print resolution, surface uniformity, phases and the presence of impurities or defects can be determined to contribute unique insights not possible with other systems. A scanning area of 100x100mm, grants a large degree of freedom to image and assess the size and shape of whole parts or sections of a larger component simultaneously. This fully integrated system is simple to operate and eliminates the need for outsourcing for quality checks, speeding up time-to-market. 

We can go further together

At ATA Scientific, we don’t just sell our instruments – through collaboration with a broad range of industries and academic institutions, we play a key role in the AM ecosystem. We support our customers by providing optimal material characterisation techniques used in AM together with key insights into the application, measurements and analysis to fully understand material behaviour. 

Contact us for more information today!

ATA Scientific Pty Ltd
+61 2 9541 3500


  1. Additive manufacturing: could it drive global success for Australian businesses?
  2. Additive manufacturing and critical minerals come together at CSIRO’s Lab22 – CSIRO
  3. Additive manufacturing and critical minerals come together at CSIRO’s Lab22 – CSIRO
  4. $25M Sydney manufacturing hub launches to drive state wide innovation
  5. Characterising material properties for powder additive manufacturing