Sintering processes can be incredibly tough on the materials handling baskets used to hold materials through them. The process of fusing particles of metal, ceramic, plastic, etc. using a combination of pressure and heat will, naturally, expose any containers holding the materials being sintered to the same forces.
So, when a client contacted Marlin Steel to request a lidded wire mesh basket to hold their parts through a process involving a sintering furnace, Marlin’s engineers knew there was a tall task ahead of them.
Understanding the Needs of the Process
First, Marlin’s team needed to know the specifics of the client’s sintering process. Since there were several different sintering processes, the team couldn’t assume any kind of baseline—some sintering processes require high pressure at lower temperatures, while others use low pressures and high temperatures.
So, Marlin sent the client a custom basket questionnaire to collect information about the sintering furnace process. This included the temperatures, pressures, chemicals, handling methods, shape/size of the parts, and other basic information about the process that could affect the usefulness of the baskets.
The questionnaire allowed Marlin’s team to understand the fundamental requirements of the basket design, including:
- While sintering furnaces are often used to bond metallic powders, this particular process was to be carried out in small parts instead.
- The basket had to be able to take extreme temperatures and pressures, yet provide ample airflow so as not to interfere with the sintering process.
- Due to some specifics of the client’s handling process, the basket needed a lid to keep parts from falling out.
To keep up with the client’s requirements for durability, performance, and functionality, Marlin’s engineers decided to use a lidded stainless steel wire mesh basket for the client’s sintering process.
Building the Sintering Basket
The wire mesh sintering basket needed to be able to withstand prolonged exposure, while also holding many small metal parts without scaling, oxidizing, or losing shape.
Grade 304 stainless steel—the most popular grade of stainless steel—has a maximum recommended operating temperature of 870°C (1679°F). While a much higher temperature resistance than the vast majority of polymer materials, this would still be on the low end of the sintering process spectrum, which can exceed 1000°C (1832°F).
In this case, the client’s process used a combination of high pressures and temperatures to remove microscopic pores from their metal parts. This allowed for sintering to occur at lower temperatures. So, while high, the temperatures did not exceed the operating threshold of Grade 304 SS.
The specific orientation and placement of the parts did not matter for this process, so the basket used an open design rather than using dividers or shaped wires to hold parts in place. For the lid, a simple latch was sufficient to keep the lid from popping open accidentally during the sintering process.
To make sure the design would work in the client’s process, Marlin’s engineers tested it using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software. This test would simulate the stresses of the client’s sintering process on the basket, including temperatures, pressures, and the weight of held parts. In mere minutes, the software could simulate hundreds or thousands of uses—showing how the basket design would hold up after 5-10 years of use.
These tests were critical for making sure that no problems would arise in a process as potentially stressful as sintering. Also, FEA physics simulations on a computer could be completed much faster than physical prototype testing, while also costing far less.
Finite element analysis is a key part of how Marlin Steel delivers “Quality, Engineered Quick®” to clients around the world. Learn more about how Marlin can help manufacturers meet their goals with precision-engineered steel wire and sheet metal products today!