Characterizing Three Dimensional Microstructures Formed by Particles: An Example of Electrophotographic Printing Toner
Additive manufacturing of objects using powders can result in microscopic structures based on the properties of particles used. In additive manufacturing, piles of powder are consolidated by one or other mechanisms in order to form a part. The resulting microstructure within the part can impact its engineering performance. Predicting and controlling the engineering performance requires the characterization of the part’s material interior microstructures. H owever, obtaining the microstructure is difficult since the interior of a powder is a challenge to visualize. In this paper, unconsolidated powders are characterized. We have used Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy to image three-dimensionally sediments of micron-sized poly-dispersed electro-photographic printing particles. Using image analysis tools, we have extracted each particle’s position and radius in selected sampling volumes. Through this methodology, we demonstrate the possibility to recreate the three-dimensional particle structures and extract values for morphological parameters for powder systems. The feasibility of direct and quantitative particle structural characterization can lead to much needed methods and tools to relate particle structures to the process of fabrication, the design of materials, and product performance in additive manufacturing.