6K Additive launches new refractory metal powders for additive manufacturing
6K Additive, producer of industrial materials for the 3D printing sector, has announced the commercial launch of a new set of refractory metal powders for additive manufacturing.
Refractory metals are a special class of materials characterized by their excellent resistance to heat and wear. They all share a similar set of properties, including melting points above 2000 ° C and exceptional hardness at room temperature. They are also chemically inert and have relatively high densities, making them suitable for parts under high stress.
The new offering, produced using the company’s proprietary UniMelt plasma system, includes high-value metals such as tungsten, rhenium and niobium-based alloys. 6K Additive hopes to target the defense, aerospace and medical sectors with its new product line, where these materials are often used for high temperature and high strength applications.
Frank Roberts, President of 6K Additive, said: “Leading defense organizations are not just looking for refractory materials like tungsten and rhenium, they are looking for them at the production scale. The uniqueness of the UniMelt 6K microwave plasma process, combined with the expertise of our operations team, has enabled us to manufacture production scale volumes for many refractory powders such as tungsten and tungsten. /rhenium.
The UniMelt microwave plasma system
The 6K microwave plasma powder production process is capable of turning milling, turning and other recycled waste into industrial grade 3D printing powders. Based on this process, the company’s UniMelt system is used to produce a multitude of materials such as Onyx In718, Onyx Ti64, ferrous alloys, cobalt-based alloys, nickel superalloys, refractory metals and even high temperature ceramics. In addition, the system has a very precise plasma zone without contamination.
Roberts adds, “We have now spheroidized the entire spectrum of refractory powders including tantalum, niobium and molybdenum and we are ready to help organizations advance their applications with these materials. “
In 2020, 6K Additive completed work on a 45,000 square foot powder manufacturing plant in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. The facility has been fitted with two UniMelt systems, and two more are expected to be installed by the end of this year. 6K will also begin to expand the powder production building over the next few months to make room for six additional UniMelt systems to be installed throughout 2022. The two systems currently in place are capable of delivering a total of 200 tonnes of raw material powder per year.
More recently, 6K’s energy division, 6K Energy, also announced the creation of a new center of excellence. The state-of-the-art 33,000 square foot facility will reuse the company’s UniMelt technology to develop new, durable battery materials for energy storage devices. Targeting electric vehicles (EVs), network storage and consumer goods, the company is expected to invest $ 25 million over the next few years in the plant.
Tungsten Rhenium Powder for the Aerospace Industry
Prior to the commercial launch, some 6K customers had already started using the new refractory metal offering. Quadrus Corporation, an Alabama-based engineering services provider, recently enlisted the expert services of 6K Additive to produce spherical tungsten-rhenium powder.
The material was used to 3D print a non-erodible throat insert for a solid rocket engine nozzle – an application that relied heavily on the high temperature, high strength nature of the material. Additionally, the 6K spheroidal tungsten rhenium powder has been shown to be “exceptionally good” on the company’s internal SLM 3D printers.
Joe Sims, Quadrus Advanced Manufacturing Division Manager, added, “Having a reliable and trusted supply chain partner like 6K Additive for Refractory Materials is essential for our business and for our defense customers. Our powder quality requirements are extremely high and the 6K additive easily overcame this hurdle for us. “
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The image shown shows a non-eroding throat insert for a solid rocket motor nozzle 3D printed using tungsten rhenium. Photo via additive 6K.