Unreliable powder flow is a major problem during processing of powders. The shear cell is the most widely used method for powders subjected to moderate or high stresses, and under quasi-static conditions, with established methods for designing large bins and hoppers based on the measurement. However, this method is not suitable for measuring the flowability of dynamic systems, such as powder mixing.
Here, the ball indentation method is investigated as a technique for evaluating powders in the intermediate and dynamic regime of flow. The method, which simply consists of dropping a ball onto a cylindrical bed of powder previously consolidated, directly measures hardness, which is related to the unconfined yield stress of the powder by the constrain factor (Hassanpour and Ghadiri, 2007). The impact of the ball on the bed is recorded with a high-speed camera to determine velocity and penetration depth. The shear rate is varied by using a range of indenter materials and sizes, and a range of drop heights. The hardness against the strain rate is considered for several materials.
It was found that the indenter size does not influence the hardness results, which are consistent with the flowability evaluation achieved with the rheometer. Furthermore the hardness, which is independent of the strain rate in quasi-static conditions, becomes shear rate dependent in intermediate regime of flow. Further work is needed to evaluate hardness in the rapid granular flow regime.