For the average person, Argon or Nitrogen gas is not a topic of daily conversation, or, for that matter, any conversation, ever. It may be surprising to learn that argon is the third most common gas in the earth’s atmosphere, though most people know little about it. The word argon itself comes from a Greek word meaning ‘inactive’ because of its lack of chemical reactions. Argon is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and non-toxic, but this doesn’t mean it is completely harmless. Because it is 38% denser than air, it can displace the oxygen in an enclosed area.
One of the most modern uses of argon gas is in selective laser melting (SLM), which is a type of 3D printing. The first process in additive manufacturing requires the printing chamber be vacuumed of all oxygen. After oxygen has been removed, argon is then backfilled or released back into chamber to reduce oxygen to 500ppm or less. The oxygen analyzer (0-1000ppm oxygen range) has a sensor inside the printing chamber, monitoring oxygen while the machine is in operation.
In this process of additive manufacturing or AM, layers of a powder are then bonded together using a powerful laser (as opposed to sinter bonding them). Argon is an inert gas, and relatively inexpensive, therefore it creates the perfect environment for this process to take place in. The use of argon here permits a tightly controlled atmosphere, allowing for an oxygen free environment. Using this amount of argon requires the use of an oxygen analyzer for control.
When using the right safety precautions, like an oxygen analyzer, argon can be very useful. It is used as a shielding gas in metal printing and direct laser sintering manufacturing (DLSM) to prevent corrosion, and can even be used to reduce oxidation.
An oxygen analyzers tests the ppm of oxygen in an enclosed area to ensure it is safe begin selective laser sintering process. If a gas like argon were to leak, it would push breathable oxygen out as it filled the room displacing any breathable air. Having no color or odor, a person in the room would be unaware of this exchange of gasses until it was too late. Also, having an oxygen monitor, like ones sold by PureAire Monitoring Systems, would alert anyone around of a gas leak in time for them to seek safety.
If you are interested in using argon gas, and require an O2 analyzer contact PureAire Monitoring Systems to learn about how easy it can be to stay safe with an oxygen monitor. Argon has an important place in our modern world, so spread the word and share the knowledge of how to use argon while practicing safety.