New Alcoa metal powder production facility at the Alcoa Technology Center.
Lightweight metals leader Alcoa has opened its state-of-the-art, 3D printing metal powder production plant to boost the manufacture of optimised powders for 3D printing for aerospace.
Located at the Alcoa Technology Center in Pittsburgh, the world’s largest light metals research centre, the facility will produce proprietary titanium, nickel and aluminium powders.
“Alcoa is forging a leadership path in additive manufacturing with a sharp focus on the critical input material—metal powders,” Alcoa Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld, explained. “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.”
Leveraging its 100-year history in aluminium powder production and metal alloy development, Alcoa aims to develop materials with the specific properties needed to 3D print high-performance aerospace components. The company also has invested in a range of technologies to further develop additive processes, product design and qualification.
The facility will form part of Arconic following separation from Alcoa’s traditional commodity business in the second half of 2016. The plant is part of a $60 million investment in advanced 3D printing materials and processes that builds on the Company’s 3D printing capabilities in California, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas.
In addition to producing powders, Alcoa recently unveiled its Ampliforge process, a hybrid technique that combines additive and traditional manufacturing to enhance the properties of 3D printed parts. For example, Alcoa designs and 3D prints a near complete part, then treats it using a traditional manufacturing process, such as forging to increase toughness and strength whilst retaining the benefits of additive. Alcoa is piloting the technique in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
Alcoa has manufactured 3D printed products for the past 20 years and owns and operates one of the world’s largest HIP (Hot Isostatic Pressing) complexes in aerospace.
Alcoa was recently selected by Airbus to supply 3D printed titanium fuselage and engine pylon parts for commercial aircraft, which are expected to be delivered later this year.