Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X
BENSON, J.M.. Safety considerations when handling metal powders. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2012, vol.112, pp.563-575. ISSN 2411-9717.
Metal powder compaction offers unique advantages in the manufacture of net-shape components using techniques such as laser sintering, conventional press and sintering, metal injection moulding, direct rolling, direct forging, and hot isostatic pressing. If the output from the primary metal production process is in powder form, then considerable cost and energy savings can be realized by direct conversion to semi-finished or final shapes. This possibility exists for titanium and possibly also for Ta, Zr, Hf, and Nb metals. However, these attractive benefits are associated with some significant risks. The high surface-to-volume ratio of powder particles coupled with the reactive nature of these metals means that special care must be taken when handling them. Powder explosions are unfortunately still a regular occurrence internationally and these often result in serious injury and loss of life. Even seemingly 'safe' compounds such as sugar, flour, and grain can be extremely hazardous when handled or milled and dust clouds are produced. In addition, exposure to airborne particles can have adverse effects on the human body, especially when particles are inhaled on a regular basis. Furthermore, the medical consequences of these are not fully understood, especially in the case of nanoparticles. The impact is often not observed immediately and debilitating illnesses may emerge only years or decades later. As far as is known, there are no South African guidelines for handling of metal powders. This paper attempts to provide an awareness of the risks associated with metal powders (including those produced indirectly by other metalworking/finishing operations) as well as some guidelines for their safe handling, based on international best practices.
Keywords : Metal powders; safety..