Effect of particle size distribution on the packing of powder beds: A critical discussion relevant to additive manufacturing

Alessandro Averardi, Corrado Cola, Steven Eric Zeltmann, Nikhil Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several additive manufacturing (AM) methods use powder feed materials. Selective laser sintering is an example of a versatile AM method, using feed material in powder form, capable of producing polymer and metallic parts. In the variations of this technique, a laser spot or an electron beam is used to locally sinter or melt a packed powder bed. After the completion of sintering on each layer, further powder is added on top of the existing bed so that the next layer may be joined. A major challenge in this method is controlling the porosity of the powder bed so that the final part has uniform and maximum density. Uniformity in the packing of bed from one layer to the other is important for optimizing the processing parameters. This review is focused on considering the packing characteristics of polydisperse hard particle beds and the determination of the expected density achievable for a given particle size and shape distribution. Models are presented for discrete mixtures as well as continuous distributions. The effect of the initial configuration of a particle bed on its ability to form a highly dense packing is also discussed. Blending of different particle sizes and shapes can be used to substantially increase the packing density, but can also lead to separation or segregation of the bed. Through appropriate control of the particle shape and use of wide distributions, packing densities close to 100 % can theoretically be achieved, but practicality and various effects that appear at small size scales prevent from achieving such high packing densities. Recent advancements have reduced the dependence of AM part quality on the density of the packed particle bed but the packing is still important for considerations such as thermal conductivity of the bed and absorption of laser power in the bed. Improved knowledge of packed bed characteristics can be helpful in developing AM methods for novel material systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100964
JournalMaterials Today Communications
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • 3D printing
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Electron beam additive manufacturing
  • Particle packing
  • Selective laser sintering Selective laser melting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Materials Chemistry


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