Anglo-Australian metals titan Rio Tinto Group has agreed to provide additive metal manufacturer Amaero with its first batch of specialty aluminium-scandium alloy, which it will source from its operations in Canada.
Rio Tinto said on Wednesday that it will supply billets of the high-performance aluminium-scandium alloy from its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metals plant in Quebec. The low-carbon aluminium is produced using hydropower at the plant in Sorel-Tracy, and the billets delivered to Amaero will be ground into powder for use as feedstock for 3D printing applications.
In addition to supplying the necessary aluminium, the Quebec plant will also source the scandium used for the billets, becoming North America’s first commercial source of the element. Rio Tinto will use a proprietary process to extract scandium from waste generated from titanium dioxide production instead of by a dedicated mining operation.
Rio Tinto Aluminium vice president Sales and Marketing Tolga Egrilmezer said in a press release that no other firm is able to source scandium oxide in the same manner.
“As a global leader in aluminium and the first producer of high-quality scandium oxide in North America, Rio Tinto is uniquely positioned to provide a secure source of aluminium-scandium alloy to the market. Aluminium-scandium alloy is the material of choice where a lightweight, high-strength material with thermal resistance and good welding properties is needed, such as for defence and aerospace applications. This first sale demonstrates our ability to develop products that meet our customers’ needs, drawing on our technical expertise and world class assets.”
“We are very pleased to enter this Agreement with Rio Tinto to purchase the first commercial batch of aluminium scandium alloy from a North American source,” explained Amaero chief executive officer Barrie Finnin. “This is an important step in the commercialisation of this high performance alloy that will be used in our breakthrough 3D metal printing technology. We look forward to working with Rio Tinto to progress the production of the alloy so we can commence the qualification process with key customers in the aerospace sector and other industries.”