Assessment of trapped powder removal and inspection strategies for powder bed fusion techniques

Luke W. Hunter, David Brackett, Nick Brierley, Jian Yang, Moataz M. Attallah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
203 Downloads (Pure)


The issue of trapped powder within a part made using powder bed fusion additive manufacturing (AM) is one of the ‘dirty secrets’ of AM, yet it has not received significant attention by the research community. Trapped powders limit the application of AM for complex geometries, including heat exchangers and dies with conformal cooling channels. Being able to detect and remove trapped powder from the build is a necessary step to avoid downstream processing and performance challenges. In this work, ‘powder challenge geometries’ with complex internal features were fabricated via laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF) and electron beam selective melting (EBSM) and were used to assess the effectiveness of several powder removal and inspection methods. Hand-held ultrasonic polishing was explored as a powder removal technique and was shown to effectively clear extremely elongated channels that grit-blasting (the current industry standard) cannot clear. X-ray computed tomography (XCT) and weighing were used to inspect and quantitatively assess the effectiveness of powder removal techniques on the challenge geometries. Using the lesser known ‘vacuum boiling’ powder removal process and the more common ultrasonic bathing process, trapped L-PBF powder was easily removed from the deep channels. Conversely, trapped EBSM powder was difficult to remove using ultrasonic polishing as the powder was sintered inside the channels. It was shown that the powder recovered by the ultrasonic polishing process had size distributions, surface chemistry, morphology and porosity similar to the virgin powder. It is suggested, on these bases, that the recovered powder could likely be recycled without detrimental effects on the process operation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4521-4532
JournalThe International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology
Issue number9-10
Early online date22 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Additive manufacturing
  • Inspection
  • Micro-CT
  • Post-processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Software
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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