Jul 6, 2016 | By Benedict

Alcoa, a leader in lightweight metals technology, has opened a state-of-the-art 3D printing metal powder production facility at the Alcoa Technology Center near Pittsburgh, PA. The facility will be used to produce titanium, nickel, and aluminum 3D printing powders for the aerospace industry.

With additive manufacturing becoming a key technology in the aerospace industry, we hear a lot of news stories from Airbus, the aerospace giant which could, in the not-too-distant future, 3D print half its airplane fleet. The Airbus Group, however, isn’t planning to achieve that goal on its own, and earlier this year announced a partnership with Alcoa, a global leader in lightweight metals, which will see Alcoa supplying Airbus with 3D printed airplane parts such as titanium fuselages and engine pylon components by the end of 2016.

Considering the magnitude of the Airbus operation, it is no surprise to see Alcoa expanding its additive manufacturing facilities through its newly opened state-of-the-art 3D printing metal powder plant. The company will use the facility, located near Pittsburgh, to develop materials with the properties required for high-level industrial additive manufacturing. Metal powders used for 3D printing durable, high-quality aerospace parts are available in limited quantities. Through this expansion, Alcoa will develop materials with the specific properties needed to 3D print high-performance components. With over 100 years of experience in aluminum powder production, and having invented many of the aluminum alloys used in the aerospace industry, the company is well placed to deliver more high-end 3D printing materials for Airbus and other customers.

“Alcoa is forging a leadership path in additive manufacturing with a sharp focus on the critical input material—metal powders,” said Alcoa Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld. “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.”

This year, Alcoa will split into two, with new company Arconic taking over additive manufacturing duties, including operation of the new metal powder plant. The plant is part of a $60 million investment in 3D printing materials and processes, which will be spread across Alcoa/Arconic facilities in California, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas, and which will go beyond powder production. The company will, for example, invest further funds into its Ampliforge hybrid manufacturing technique, which fuses additive and traditional manufacturing processes, taking a 3D printed part and treating it via forging or other traditional processes. This new method, being piloted in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, can purportedly increase the toughness and strength of a part while reducing material costs.

Despite having its roots in traditional metal manufacturing technologies, Alcoa has been creating 3D printed products for the last 20 years and owns one of the largest HIP (Hot Isostatic Pressing) machines in the aerospace industry. This machine is used to strengthen the metallic structures of 3D printed and non-printed parts made of titanium and nickel-based super-alloys. Furthermore, after acquiring RTI International Metals in July 2015, Alcoa strengthened its position in the titanium and other speciality metals markets for the aerospace sector and other areas.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printer Company

 

 

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