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Ask the Expert

Metal Processing

  • Can gas atmospheres improve the performance and reduce the cost of my lithium-ion battery?
    Zbigniew Zurecki Zbigniew Zurecki

    Sr. Research Associate

    Yes! Industrial-scale production of lithium-ion batteries typically involves high-temperature furnace treatment of precursors mixed with carbonaceous material for synthesizing conductive cathode material, e.g. LiFePO4. Process safety and the yield of desired lithium-ion compound are markedly improved if a nitrogen or argon atmosphere is used in the furnace during treatment instead of the conventional air atmosphere. In addition, when a reducing atmosphere such as argon-hydrogen or nitrogen hydrogen is used in the furnace, the product yield and electrolyte conductivity can increase. When using gas atmospheres, it is important to use the proper instrumentation in order to control the atmosphere and ensure process consistency. Whether you are manufacturing lithium precursors and batteries for consumer electronics, electric vehicles, or energy storage systems, Air Products has the processing know-how and world class service to help you improve your products while reducing costs.

  • Is my gas purity adequate for my process?
    Don Bowe Don Bowe

    Sr. Applications Engineer

    Industrial gases (such as nitrogen, hydrogen, and argon) for furnace atmospheres are characterized by their very high purity (>99.995%). Typical impurity levels are much less than 10 parts per million by volume (ppmv) oxygen and less than 3 ppmv moisture (<– 90° F dew point). This purity is typically adequate for many processes involving a wide array of materials. Some materials, though, due to their high reactivity, may require additional purification to reach even lower levels of impurity, especially with gases supplied via bulk or tube trailer supply modes. Some facilities install in-line purifiers as an added precaution against impurities picked up from the houseline. In-line purification typically involves the removal of oxygen and moisture. Sometimes with argon supply, it is necessary to remove trace nitrogen impurities. The choice of purifier is dependent on the gas and the type and amount of impurities to be removed.

  • How can I provide customer documentation proving my heat treat process was controlled while treating their products?

    Quality programs that require information about how you process a part for your customers are becoming more common. Understanding what variables you control and what effect they have on your parts is an important step in starting this effort. Variables such as temperature, time, atmosphere flow rates and composition, and utility consumption are good places to start tracking.

    A monitoring system makes this task easier day to day and increases the accuracy of recorded data. Air Products' PURIFIRE® process management system automates data monitoring and collection, and provides additional benefits such as remote monitoring of your process, alarming to indicate problems, and custom report generation for customer documentation. Our engineers help you determine what variables are important for you to monitor and then customize a system that fits both your specifications and those of your customers.

    Benefits such as reduced scrap, elimination of manual data collection, faster problem troubleshooting, and increased product quality can enhance your customer relationship and help your bottom line.

General

  • How does gas affect the quality of my additive manufacturing process?
    Justin Rabe Justin Rabe

    Marketing Manager

    As with other traditional methods of prototyping and manufacturing metal parts, the proper gas atmosphere is critical for producing quality products.  Nitrogen and argon are commonly used to provide inert atmospheres during additive manufacturing.  It is important to use the correct flow rate and purge duration to avoid deformed parts and ensure a safe production environment.  For example, high oxygen content in the atmosphere will result in oxidation of the powder metal, leading to poor part quality, clumping in the powder feed, or high porosity in the end product.  It will also reduce the amount of recyclable powder for future use.  Inerting is also critical for proper management of the combustible dust arising from the powder metal and printing process.  Post treatments after printing may require industrial gases, depending on the application.

  • I know my flowmeter tells me that I have a certain gas flow rate, but how can I be sure?

    Flowmeters must be sized properly for each particular application, type of gas, gas pressure, and operating range. First, make sure that your flowmeter is calibrated for the specific gravity of the gas that you are metering. Check the label or the glass tube of the flowmeter or call the manufacturer to be sure. Second, operate the flowmeter only at the pressure for which it was calibrated. As an example, a variable-area flowmeter calibrated for 80 psi and reading 1000 scfh will really only be delivering 760 scfh if it is operated at 40 psi. This is a 24% error! Third, for best accuracy and to allow room for adjustment, size the flowmeter so that your normal flow rate falls within 30%–70% of full scale. These three steps will help ensure that you have good control over your gas flows and, ultimately, your process.

  • I use high-pressure gas cylinders and am concerned about safety. Is there a better way?
    John Tapley John Tapley

    Microbulk Business Development Manager

    Traditionally, high-pressure gas cylinders have been the supply mode for users in the low- to medium-volume range. This has left companies vulnerable to safety risks associated with moving cylinders and exposure to high pressure. Consolidating to a centralized microbulk system eliminates the need to handle cylinders and reduces the risk of product mix-up. Further benefits include decreased exposure to high-pressure containers and reduced traffic congestion with less frequent supplier deliveries.

    Air Products developed the microbulk supply option as a cost-effective, reliable alternative to high-pressure cylinders for nitrogen, argon, oxygen and carbon dioxide supply. In addition to efficient and flexible storage systems, innovative piping solutions are available to help you have a smooth transition from cylinders to microbulk.

  • Can I remotely monitor what’s happening in my furnaces and other process equipment while I’m away from my plant?
    Chris Ward Chris Ward

    Engineering Associate

    With the proper instrumentation and controls, you can securely monitor and control your heat treating or thermal process from nearly anywhere in the world! This is possible using a variety of hardware and communication methods, including Internet, dial-up, and cell phones. Alarm and warning notifications can also be proactively delivered to you so you can react to upsets, trends, and events before it’s “too late.” It’s important to identify the key parameters, equipment and instrumentation you want to monitor, and then select the hardware and software that best match your needs.

  • How do I know if I’m wasting gas due to leaks in my gas piping?
    John Green John Green

    Research Technician

    Gas piping leaks can result from various conditions, including improper thread sealing, missed brazed joints, defective piping, over pressurization, or even vibration and shocks. A pinhole leak can cost you tens of thousands of dollars per year, depending on the size, number and severity of the leak(s). There are many ways to detect leaks; for instance, using soap tests, pressure drop tests, mass spectrometry or thermal conductivity tests. They all have their place; however, they also often come with limitations in precision, speed, difficulty or cost.

    Air Products’ leak detection service can identify and repair costly leaks in your piping to help improve your part quality and bottom line.

Metal Fabrication

  • Do you need to weld titanium in a glovebox? What are some of the gas considerations?
    Matt Thayer Matt Thayer

    Principal Industry Engineer

    No, titanium does not have to be welded in a glovebox; it's been welded outside gloveboxes for over 30 years. To help ensure quality welds and avoid contamination, use separate grinding and shielding tools.

    The shielding gas should be supplied until the molten weld is below 800°F to prevent air contamination. During GTAW and GMAW, argon or helium shielding gases with a dew point below –50°F provide the required protection. Separate gas supplies are required for the primary shielding of the molten weld puddle, secondary trailing shield to cool the weld deposit and associated heat affected zone (HAZ), as well as a backside weld shield for the HAZ. Argon is generally preferred over helium due to its higher density, better arc stability and cost advantages. Argon-helium mixtures may be used if higher voltage, hotter arc and greater penetration are desired. Helium, with its lower density, is sometimes used for a trailing of back-up shielding when the weld is above the device.

Non-Ferrous Metals

  • How can I reduce my gas consumption for molten metal blanketing?
    Matt Hawkins Matt Hawkins

    Principal Applications Engineer

    By reducing the oxygen content above the induction furnace, inert gases—typically argon—have proven benefits for blanketing molten metal, including higher yields, lower alloy fading, decreased nonmetallic inclusions, reduced casting porosity, lower casting rework and rejects, and increased refractory lifetime. However, inert gas costs can impact your bottom line.

    Air Products’ patented swirl cone technology delivers all the benefits while using up to 50% less argon. In side-by-side testing, this patented technology using gaseous argon reduced the oxygen level above the furnace to less than 2%, with little or no interference to the melting operation. In addition, the technology’s design enables it to remain in place during charging and pouring.

MAXX Shielding GasesSymphony of Welding

Symphony of Welding (5:13)

Air Products' Maxx™ gases deliver a quality weld that both looks and sounds good. We call it the Symphony of Welding.

TurboCam additive manufacturing: how argon optimized their 3D printing processBiggest Challenge Facing 3-D Printers Video

Biggest Challenge Facing 3-D Printers Video (03:45)

Controlling the gas atmosphere optimizes quality and safety.

Thermal Spray CoolingThermal Spray Cooling Technology Video

Thermal Spray Cooling Technology Video (2:53)

Optimize your process gas and cooling

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