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Considerations for Working with Metal Powder Additive Manufacturing

Utilizing the abilities of additive manufacturing (AKA 3D printing) with metal powders is unlocking the ability to build new parts and tools for aerospace, automotive, communications, and medicine that were previously not feasible. However, we must also consider and address the serious safety and handling implications.

Working with new technologies can be exciting, especially building more complex world exploration and communications tools.

Additive manufacturing (colloquially called 3D printing) is continuing to grow as a way to build more intricate and complex items that previously were not possible with traditional manufacturing methods.

Along with the potentially useful applications for this technology, it is also important to consider safety precautions and best practices to ensure the efficient handling of potentially dangerous materials.

What is Metal Powder Additive Manufacturing?

Additive Manufacturing is an incredible tool for building almost anything through a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) system. Traditional manufacturing can have limitations when working with metal to how existing sheets can be cut and molded. With additive manufacturing, designers can essentially start with a blank canvas and build whatever they like by adding one layer of material at a time. This allows for nearly unlimited ability to create completely customized pieces.

When working with metals, manufacturers utilize extremely fine powders of materials such as titanium, aluminum, nickel, and stainless steel. These powders are layered and joined together by fusing tools such as lasers, binders, and heated nozzles. Both the type of metals and methods used to build the final products depends on the manufacturer and what they are trying to create. Current uses for metal additive manufacturing include aerospace technology, car parts, medical devices, microwave communications, and satellite componentry.

What Does the Industry Currently Look Like?

Because the additive manufacturing industry is so new, many unknowns exist when predicting how the technology will develop in the coming years. Changes are occurring rapidly, sometimes making it challenging to keep up with new best practices. Unfortunately, this can also lead to some serious safety risks. Currently, there are no imposed regulations on the material handling.

Most companies utilizing additive manufacturing technologies are currently in the research and development phase, working mainly with homemade equipment and small batches. Because the materials are highly combustible, this can be dangerous if the powders are not handled properly. In general, current manufacturers in this space could benefit from improved containment solutions and a more in-depth understanding of what exactly they are dealing with.

What Can CPS Do?

At Custom Powder Systems, one of our greatest strengths is our ability to adapt to rapidly changing technologies. Our immense amount of combined knowledge on our teams allows us to embrace challenges, leading to incredible innovation. This can be especially valuable in a space with many manufacturers just starting in research and development phases of their endeavors. For those experiencing their first foray into commercial manufacturing with professional-grade machinery, we offer seamless integration of new components with already existing systems.

Due to the volatility of metal powders, they need to be handled safely. Many materials currently being used are pyrophoric powders, which will combust when exposed to oxygen at the submicron size. To prevent explosions, we offer inerting systems and O2 monitoring equipment. Additionally, the powders and gasses from the production process can be extremely harmful to the workers handling them. Our systems contain the materials in a way that isolates the products to prevent human exposure during powder handling and transferring.

One of the best parts about developing new technologies is expanding our knowledge base and developing new skills. At CPS, we take pride in our abilities to constantly learn and grow, no matter what we are dealing with. If you have a new area you’d like to explore, let us know how we can help!

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How CPS and ICS Came Together

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Every Henry Ford has a James J. Couzens quietly making him a legend. Every Warren Buffett has his Charlie Munger. Every Jagger has a Richards and every Paul a John. So, too, it was true in January of 2008 when Custom Powder Systems found its perfect complement in Integrated Containment Systems. Prior to this conscious coupling, they were two separate companies halfway across the country from each other. Both were doing a good job, but each was missing the magic piece that made today’s whole infinitely greater than the sum of their previous parts.

This first meeting was in North Carolina where Dale “Mac” McIntosh, President of Custom Powder Systems, was looking for a glovebox that could handle radioactive materials for the nuclear power industry. Custom Powder had the powder and system part down, but they needed someone who understood nuclear side of it for the glovebox. This is where Russ Krainiak comes in.

“Russ did as good a presentation as I’ve ever seen. The room was spellbound. It was technical, specific, and right on. They were mesmerized.”

Dale “Mac” McIntosh, President, Custom Powder Systems

Mac knew there was something special about how these two companies worked together on this project. Each brought a skill-set the other didn’t have. Russ Krainiak says “It was the right fit because his company was good at powder, and ours was good containment. It gave us a strength a lot of companies don’t have.”

Combining Custom Powder with Integrated Containment did more than merge two talented companies. It made it easier for clients to see the work without having to travel all over the country.

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Photo by Zane Lee on Unsplash

“Nobody just buys an isolator,” says Ronnie Harris, Director of Engineering. “They want it integrated. They want it automated. ICS and CPS together has given us more solutions for the customer than we had by ourselves.”

Food and pharmaceutical companies are requiring their products remain free of contaminates, so having the ability to both blend and contain the product in an aseptic environment is crucial. It allows CPS/ICS the ability to take on larger projects with an even higher level of reliability than before.

According to Mac, “Our healthcare system is going to change incredibly in the next 10 years, and most of it will be done in isolation.”

Being able to take on projects as big and as out-of-this-world as a glovebox handling moon rocks for NASA—and as small as fixing it so the final cracker tastes as fresh as the first—means Custom Powder Systems and Integrated Containment Systems are one company ready to solve any challenge.

What can we invent for you?

Contact us here or call (417) 868-8002

Photo by H Shaw on Unsplash

Protecting Your Employees When PPE is Hard to Find

“PPE has gone up 1000% in price across the board. Companies are calling us and saying ‘Here’s the situation, do you have any options?’”

Angelo Rubino, Business Development Specialist

PPE has been a common term for people in hospitals, factories, and other potentially hazardous workplaces. With the onset of COVID-19, the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been the topic of a multitude of headlines. As more PPE is directed to healthcare workers, companies working with hazardous materials are finding it difficult to source some of the most basic equipment. Equipment that was once just a click of the mouse away.

Angelo Rubino, a business development specialist at Custom Powder Systems, has been fielding calls from companies needing new solutions. “PPE has gone up 1000% in price across the board,” according to Rubino. “Companies are calling us and saying ‘Here’s the situation, do you have any options?’”

The solution comes in two forms: Downflow Booths and Isolators.

Occupational Exposure Limits (OEL) determine the type of PPE a worker might need. The lower the OEL gets, the more aggressive the protection must be.

Downflow Booths are a way of blocking particulates by creating a flow of air that effectively traps harmful material and pushes draws it into a filter. This “wall” of air moves in one direction away from the operator—preventing airborne particles from reaching employees.

Isolators are used in situations when measurements go from micrograms down to nanograms. Ronnie Harris, Director of Engineering, says that “isolators keep the operators on the outside and the product on the inside.” This not only protects workers from coming into contact with the product, it prevents cross-contamination with other pharmaceuticals or chemicals.

“What can we do to solve this so we’re never having stress like this again?”

Angelo Rubino, discussing what our clients are asking us.

The unexpected interruption of the PPE supply chain is requiring companies to look for permanent and customized solutions. Angelo Rubino is hearing companies ask “what can we do to solve this so we’re never having stress like this again?”

In addition to the important protection for employees, the FDA encourages no operator being in the same room as the product being handled. “They want you working through a random access barrier, ” says Russell Krainiak, Director of Technology at CPS. “A RABS is a wall system that keeps everything from the operator from getting to anything that’s inside to fill lines. And you work through gloves just like you do in all our Containment Isolators.”

It’s important that Personal Protective Equipment like masks, face shields, gloves, and outerwear find its way to hospitals and healthcare workers who are on the front lines fighting COVID-19. It’s also crucial that a company like yours supplying pharmaceuticals have a way to protect your employees… and the products you are shipping. And if there’s something Custom Powder Systems is brilliant at doing, it’s finding a customized and creative solution to make your company safe and more effective.

By speaking with one of our experts, you may find that a permanent solution now can both save money, and prevent future shut-downs in the event of another PPE interruption.

To speak with one of our experts about your PPE, isolation, containment, or other crucial challenges, call us today at (417) 868-8002 or contact us via the short form below:

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ICS - Aseptic Isolation

Aseptic Isolation – The Time Is Now

The meeting was held in December. Over 200 people attended a 2 1/2 day seminar hosted by the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers (ISPE). The takeaway? The time had come for aseptic isolation to come into its own.

The problem? The meeting happened in 1995.

Flash forward to 2019 and we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what we can do with aseptic isolation. The question is, what took us so long to get started?

That answer is pretty simple — the technology wasn’t ready yet. The idea was solid, but failures caused delays. For many companies, especially those that had existing clean room implementations, the opportunity cost and associated risks to integrate an aseptic isolation system were simply too high.

But — if we can go out on a limb to say it — the time has come to kill off the clean room.

Death to the Clean Room

It’s important to note, first off, what aseptic really means, because this is the biggest area where clean rooms fail.

Aseptic isolation means keeping people out of the space, thereby limiting contamination or cross-contamination.

In fact, clean rooms are such a common point of failure that, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) walks in for an inspection, the inspector will bypass the isolation system and head straight to the clean room. The FDA has even gone so far as to take a stance, where the agency normally does not, in saying that aseptic isolation should be the new standard.

The fact of the matter is that clean rooms have points of failure that aseptic isolation systems do not. We live and operate in a world that is risk-averse. So even if the FDA is not saying “thou shalt use aseptic isolation systems”, the agency is acknowledging the inherent risks of clean rooms and giving guidance to avoid them.

That being the case, why is the FDA still approving clean rooms? The short answer is that people still want to use them. ROI is the primary concern, even if that ROI is only positive in the short term.

The Aseptic Advantage

The heart of the conversation is also the proverbial elephant in the room. Building and implementing aseptic isolation costs more money up front than building a clean room. But in most cases, those costs can be recouped many times over within a short period of time.

The arguments for spending the money come in many forms. First, there is less risk for lost batches. When your raw materials cost is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single batch, losing one to a clean room failure is a tough pill to swallow.

Second to that, isolation systems require less space. In some cases, where the systems can be moved from one area to another, increased productivity alone is enough to justify the additional cost. We’re no longer tied to having all operations within a single location and forcing everyone to work inside of it.

This brings on another point that is often missed – operator satisfaction. An operator is able to use a glove box, rather than having to wear full protective equipment with their face and eyes covered. The rules of the surrounding room can be less stringent as well. In many cases, the room may only need to be kept at an ISO 7 level, rather than an ISO 5 and the required associated cleaning.

There is, of course, the associated time cost as well. Every time that you have to gown up to enter a clean room, you can bet on fifteen minutes. Then once you are ready to leave, there are another fifteen minutes involved. Add those thirty minutes, plus two breaks during a day, and then lunch. Suddenly the costs start to make a lot less sense when lost minutes turn into lost hours.

For those of you considering aseptic systems, there are other advantages that need to weigh on your decision. Not the least of these is the associated cost for running an aseptic system versus a clean room. Environmental controls, airflow, and maintenance all turn into money that you’re having to spend. With a closed, aseptic system, each of these factors experience a dramatic cost reduction.

Finally, it’s worth looking at the job of your quality assurance person. In days past, every operator in a clean room was another potential source for contamination. Further, compared to a clean room, the smaller size of an aseptic system allows for easier certification.

Answering Your Aseptic Questions

The three questions that we hear the most when it comes to aseptic systems have nothing to do with their capability. Anyone who has spent any time around clean rooms versus aseptic systems can tell you their advantages. What people do want to know is simple:

  • What’s your aseptic isolation lead time?
  • What accessories do you use?
  • How much does aseptic isolation cost?

The simple answer for all three of these is “it depends.” The deeper answer is that it depends because we don’t believe in building cookie cutter solutions. We’d love to have a conversation about your situation to see how we can help and give you an idea of cost. We have built custom aseptic isolation solutions for customers from Iowa to Canada, and China to the east coast of the United States.

We are Integrated Containment Systems and Custom Powder Systems. We work with you to custom design the best solution to your problem, then build that design for you. And even better, because we’re based in the United States, we’re going to be there to fix a problem if something goes wrong.

What can we build for you today? Contact us and let us know.

Custom Cannabis Solutions

Custom Solutions for the Cannabis Industry

We love a challenge. When you make custom products, built to meet the needs of highly-specific markets, you have to love a challenge. We’ve kept a close eye on the emerging cannabis business and the challenges that it creates. Traveling to the MoCannBizCon + Expo gave us an opportunity to talk with many of you face to face about your specific needs and how we at Custom Powder Systems can help.

The Two Major Challenges Facing The Cannabis Industry

Those of you in the cannabis industry already know the problems that need solutions. For us, the conference was an opportunity to meet with speakers from government relations, industry groups, and seed-to-sale businesses to find out more. The most important thing that we learned is that there are a lot of unknowns.


One challenge for business owners is that regulation won’t be happening on the federal level. This means that your budding business can’t turn to FDA regulations.

Instead, in most cases, the individual states are handling the regulatory load. For many business owners that we spoke to, this leads to a lot of confusion and leaves unanswered questions.


We also learned that many business owners don’t yet know what they need to help them get their products to market.

For example, we spoke to producers who were still trying to come up with the best ways to extract everything that they need from their plants. They’ve been resorting to slow, inefficient processes that work well enough for testing, but running a business requires that your methods scale. Many were at a loss when the discussion turned to increasing output to meet the demands of the wider market.

The Custom Powder Solution

What we took away from the conference was a revelation for us.

We are a company that builds custom, novel solutions to difficult problems. State regulations will, almost certainly, be less demanding than those at the federal level.

For us, these unknowns are not obstacles, only challenges. We have helped companies of all sizes meet or exceed their production demands, and we can do the same for the cannabis industry.

We work in a world where the status quo isn’t good enough. We don’t expect you to take our existing products and make them work for you.

We want you to tell us your problems, and then let us go to work designing a solution. From grow cycle management to defoliation, extraction to storage, we are here to build you what you need for success.

When you are ready to take the next step in expanding your cannabis business, give us a call.

Download our small scale cannabis sales material

Clean Room Test Facility

Custom Powder Systems and Integrated Containment Systems Have An In-House Testing Clean Room

So we have an in-house testing clean room…

Right now, you might be thinking, “Good for you. But what does that mean for me?”

Good question.

A cleanroom ensures a stable, low particulate background to measure down to the lowest threshold of detectability of your products. Whether your product is hazardous to humans, combustible, pyrophoric, a controlled substance, or you simply need a clean facility to handle your materials, our in-house cleanroom testing allows us to certify the barrier technology performance of your project before it leaves our facility. And all that extra planning and testing on the front end can save you time and money.

You DO like saving time and money, don’t you?

Oh, and if you’re wondering, we also perform blending and segregation tests, isolator surrogate testing, and deagglomeration demonstrations of hardened materials in our drum massagers.
We are masters of containment technology. Put our systems to work for you.