American aluminium major Alcoa announced the opening of a new, state-of-the-art 3D printing metal powder production facility on Wednesday. The new facility, which is located 25 miles east of Pittsburgh at the Alcoa Technology Center, will produce proprietary titanium, nickel and aluminum powders optimized for 3D printed aerospace parts. The firm says it has also invested in new technologies for developing additive processes, product design, and qualification.
“Alcoa is forging a leadership path in additive manufacturing with a sharp focus on the critical input material—metal powders,” said Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “We are combining our expertise in metallurgy, manufacturing, design and product qualification to push beyond the possibilities of today’s 3D printing technologies for aerospace and other growth markets.”
Citing the scarcity of metal powders available for producing durable, high-quality aerospace parts using 3D printing technology, Alcoa says it intends to develop such materials, leveraging its century of experience with aluminium, which includes the development of most aluminium alloys used in the aerospace industry at present.
The 3D printing technology to be developed by Alcoa will be joined with the firm’s proprietary printing/forging hybrid technology that it says strengthens parts without adding material. This technique is being carried out by Alcoa at plants in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
This plant is part of the firm’s US$60 million investment in advanced 3D printing materials and processes, and will augment Alcoa’s current operations in the US states of California, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The firm also operates of the world’s largest HIP (Hot Isostatic Pressing) complexes in aerospace, where it has manufactured 3D printed products and strengthened the metallic structures of traditional and additive manufactured parts made of titanium and nickel based super-alloys for two decades.
The firm indicates that this new facility will continue on under the Arconic brand after the announced separation, which is slated to be completed later this year.