There are certainly plenty of newcomers to the 3D printing industry; after all, most consider 3D printing to be a newcomer in itself when compared to the history of the world and traditional manufacturing. Between startups, spinoffs, and individuals, all throwing their hats into the ring, it’s often hard to know who to rely on when they have only just begun, and don’t have a major track record to show. Everybody has to start somewhere and begin building a foundation, but it can also these days be refreshing to find a company that has a longstanding history.
As a company, Alcoa doesn’t just have history, or experience: they are undeniable leaders. Known as forerunners in the manufacturing of aluminum and light metals, the NYC-headquartered company has been progressing into the 3D printing arena for 20 years now, from originally moving into using 3D printing for jet engine parts to investing in large facilities devoted to the cause, as well as beginning to supply 3D printed airplane components to Airbus.
As their momentum continues to grow, Alcoa is answering the need not only for a strong leader in 3D metal printing but also a need for the development of high-quality metal powders in the aerospace manufacturing industry. With all of this in mind, and more, they have opened a $60 million 3D printing metal powder production facility at the Alcoa Technology Center in Pittsburgh. There, the company will maintain a focus on producing proprietary titanium, nickel and aluminum powders optimized for 3D printed aerospace parts. Along with this is a keen interest in further development of the technology in terms of processes, product designs, and qualification procedures.
“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.”
While many may not be aware that this longstanding company (founded in the late 1800s) has already been working with 3D printing for two decades, they may also not realize that when it comes to the aluminum materials used in aerospace, most of that was developed and invented by Alcoa. The company will actually be splitting into two different entities this year though, with Alcoa continuing in aluminum commodities and the new company Arconic, being responsible for delving into cutting edge manufacturing technologies and techniques, as well as working to solve ‘complex engineering challenges,’ according to their website.The new facility will be part of Arconic as they forge ahead with new and advanced 3D printing, including their unique Ampliforge technique, which employs both 3D printing and traditional methods like forging. This will be in addition to the related processes they have going on also in California, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas. As the company splits, Arconic will be heavily related to the aerospace business too, with teams there working to create and innovate in the areas of materials and products as well as new solutions within the industry.
“The ‘Arconic’ brand fuses our extraordinary heritage with our highly promising future,” said Kleinfeld. “It echoes our 127-year history of invention – and reinvention.”
As we’ve reported on previously, Alcoa also operates a facility dedicated to Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) technology for their 3D printing processes, in Whitehall, Michigan. With this technology they are able to use extremely high temperatures and high pressure to strengthen components made from super-alloys such as titanium and nickel. They will also be following through on their contract with Airbus to deliver 3D printed parts for titanium fuselage and engine pylon components this year. Discuss further in the Alcoa 3D Printing Facility in Pittsburgh forum over at 3DPB.com.