Alcoa opens 3D printing metal powder plant

July 7, 2016
Lightweight metals specialist Alcoa has opened its state-of-the-art, 3D printing metal powder production facility.

Lightweight metals specialist Alcoa (New York, NY) has opened its state-of-the-art, 3D printing metal powder production facility. Located at the Alcoa Technical Center (New Kensington, PA; a suburb of Pittsburgh), whose research focuses on light metals, the company will produce proprietary titanium, nickel, and aluminum powders optimized for 3D-printed aerospace parts. The company also has invested in a range of technologies to further develop additive manufacturing processes, product design, and qualification.

Alcoa has opened its state-of-the-art, 3D printing metal powder production facility located at the Alcoa Technical Center, a light metals research center. (Photo: Business Wire)

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. The company has deep expertise in metal alloy development, having invented most of the aluminum alloys currently used in aerospace. In addition, it has a 100-year history in aluminum metal powder production, primarily for rocket fuel, paint, and other products.

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. The company is also focused on advancing a range of additive techniques, including its recently unveiled Ampliforge process that combines additive and traditional manufacturing. Using this process, the company designs and 3D-prints a near-complete part, and then treats it using a traditional manufacturing process such as forging. The process enhances the properties of 3D-printed parts, increasing toughness and strength vs. parts made solely by additive manufacturing, and significantly reduces material input. The company is piloting the technique in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, OH.

Demonstrating its leadership in additive manufacturing, Airbus selected Alcoa to supply 3D-printed titanium fuselage and engine pylon parts for commercial aircraft. Alcoa expects to deliver the first additive-manufactured parts under the agreement later this year.

Alcoa's aerospace businesses will be a key component of Arconic following Alcoa's separation. Arconic will be an innovator of high-performance multi-material products and solutions in attractive growth markets, including aerospace.

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