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Metal Powders for Additive Manufacturing Are Derived From Sustainable Sources
6K’s UniMelt® microwave plasma platform is said to produce best-in-class additive manufacturing powder. Image courtesy of 6K Inc.
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass.–The advanced materials company 6K, Inc., recently launched what it called “the first AM (additive manufacturing) powders derived from sustainable sources.” In a press release, 6K said that its process can convert “certified chemistry” machined millings, turnings, and other recycled feedstock sources into premium metal powder that can be used for additive manufacturing.
The company, formerly known as Amastan Technologies, is a developer of microwave plasma technology for the production of advanced materials used in additive manufacturing (AM), lithium ion batteries, and other industrial markets.
“If the AM industry is to succeed in expanding to a far greater number of parts and market applications, powder production technology has to advance to provide a far stronger business case,” said Aaron Bent, CEO at 6K, in the release. “Part of enabling that expansion will come from a lower total cost structure and higher performance powders, both of which are possible with 6K’s process. But we need to go beyond that, to powders and business models that consider the full production cycle cost of building AM parts.”
Although 6K’s process technology can currently produce premium powder from certified machining turnings and previously used powders, the company expects to be able to extend its capability in the future to feedstock created from AM support structures, non-conforming AM parts (post-print), and other unique inputs.
The goal is to use 100 percent of the materials that enter the supply chain, providing additive manufacturing end-users with a new way to manage project costs and control their supply chain.
The 6K Additive team is reclaiming and selling more than 500 tons of Ti-64 per year into the aluminum alloying industry for aerospace, medical, and automotive products. This provides an engineered feedstock for UniMelt® plasma for a wide continuum of alloys.
Powder products from 6K are the result of two of the company’s core technologies–its alloy reclamation system and its UniMelt plasma system. The 6K UniMelt plasma system, said to be the world’s only microwave production scale plasma, has a highly uniform and precise plasma zone with zero contamination. It is capable of high throughput production of advanced battery powders, phosphors, AM materials, and more.
“Our ability to reclaim materials and process almost any type of metal, alloy, or ceramic feedstock into premium powders puts a powerful tool into the hands of the AM designer,” continued Dr. Bent. “This now means that any alloy that is machined has the potential to become powder. Furthermore, we can create new AM powders previously not possible: powders engineered from non-eutectic alloys, such as high-entropy alloys, or designer aluminum alloys capable of printing in powder bed fusion systems.”
Due to the high uniformity of the microwave plasma, 6K has the ability to produce quality powders that provide high sphericity, zero porosity, elimination of satellites, and high flowability and tap density. Through its metals reclamation strategy, 6K can specifically target the powder size distribution to the additive manufacturing process needed: MIM, L-PBF, EBM, DED, or binder-jetting. According to the company, this enables “almost 100 percent UniMelt process yield, as much as three-to-four times higher than gas atomization.”
Over the last year, 6K rebranded the company from Amastan Technologies to 6K, received $11 million in series B-2 funding, and acquired AI Solutions, now 6K Additive.
Today, 6K Additive is an ISO 9001 facility that processes more than 500 tons of Ti-64 per year. It is in the process of building a state-of-the-art, 40,000-square-foot production facility for additive manufacturing powders.
6K (www.6kinc.com) uses proprietary advanced plasma processing and industrial systems to create materials that are enabling the next-generation of commercial and consumer products. The company focuses on developing critical materials used to manufacture powders for industrial additive manufacturing, advanced battery technologies, silicon wafers, LED lighting, and thermal coatings.
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