Nov.7, 2014


Alcoa, the world's leading producer of primary and fabricated aluminum, announced on Tuesday, November 4, that the company is working rapidly to adopt 3-D printing to manufacture parts for jet engines and other products.

"You are going to see it have a big impact in industry," Ray Kilmer, Alcoa's technology chief, said at the company's annual investor day presentation in New York.

Ray Kilmer

The company is also the world's largest miner of bauxite and refiner of alumina. In addition to inventing the modern-day aluminum industry, Alcoa has been behind major milestones in the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation, consumer electronics and industrial markets over the past 125 years. Since last year, Alcoa has actively supported workshops and advised on R&D projects at the pilot institute, launched in Youngstown, Ohio, which is focused on developing and commercializing 3D printing.

3D printing helped the company cut product development costs by 25 percent, cut in half the time it takes to make parts for customers, Kilmer said.

Using a jet engine fan blade as an example. Currently the production time for a jet engine fan blade, from design to finished product, is approximately one year. But using 3D printing, they could reduce the time from one year to 25 weeks. The ability to virtually model via computer the casting process for each part significantly reduces the time compared to the traditional methods of making dies.

"More research is needed, but we will be able to print some of these parts directly (instead of casting)," Kilmer said.

In addition, product development costs could also be 25 percent lower than traditional processes. 3D modeling allows the company to quickly design new iterations of complex products that was not possible with traditional forging technology.

CEO Klaus Kleinfeld

Technology is "a gigantic advantage that powers every one of our businesses," CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said at the investor day. The company has a team at the Alcoa Technology Center in Upper Burrell and at other locations working on 3D printing production.

Operationally, Alcoa said it continues to drive process improvements and procurement savings across the business. Its productivity gains totaled $862 million through the third quarter and are expected to reach $1.1 billion for the full year, exceeding the $850 million 2014 annual target. Additionally, Alcoa said that it is well on track to achieve its 2014 annual financial targets.

Kilmer said the company is looking at acquisitions. "We have a large focus group looking at 3-D printing" for use in multiple applications, he said.



Posted in 3D Printing Company

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