Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Altana Acquires TLS Technik and AMT to Make Metal 3D Printing Powder

ST Medical Devices

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Following the trend of acquisitions in the 3D printing industry by chemicals and materials companies, Altana AG, the Germany-based specialty chemicals group, has acquired Germany-based TLS Technik, and Aluminium Materials Technologies (AMT), which is based in the UK.

 

A20X alumnium alloy from AMT, now part of Altana’s Eckart division. Images Courtesy of Altana

These acquisitions will be made by the Eckart division of Altana AG, which specializes in inks and pigments. The addition of 25-year-old TLS Technik, a specialized producer of gas atomized metal powders for industrial 3D printing, and AMT, a company that set new standards in strength and weight in developing its patented special aluminum alloys, A20X, for 3D printing, expand Altana’s portfolio in industrial AM.

“By acquiring the TLS business, we are expanding our portfolio in 3D printing for industrial additive manufacturing and positioning ourselves in a technology market of the future,” says Martin Babilas, CEO of ALTANA AG. “With this step we are continuing to implement ALTANA’s strategy of generating value-creating growth through targeted acquisitions, even in difficult economic times.”

“TLS’ expertise in the production of metal powders and alloys for metallic 3D printing complements ECKART’s strengths as a specialist in the atomization of metals,” says Dr. Wolfgang Schütt, head of ALTANA’s ECKART Division. “We are also strengthening ourselves in a targeted manner for functional applications.”

TLS has developed metal powders, especially titanium, for AM for over two decades, and in 2016, had entered into a joint venture in North America with GKN/Hoeganaes to produce titanium powders for aerospace and medical applications.

Metal powders for AM. Image Courtesy of TLS Technik

In the same year, TLS, through its main shareholder PKM Future Holding GmbH, also partnered with SLM Solutions AG for the development of aluminum alloys for AM. Currently, the company offers a range of metal powders specifically for AM applications, with melting points up to 2600 °C, including reactive powders (Titanium, Zirconium), high purity powders (copper), high melting powders (Niob, Vanadium) and intermetallic powders (NiTi, TiAL).

AMT on the other hand, produces the highly-reputed A20X, which debuted at the Paris Air show in 2017 and was the first new aluminum alloy, designed for casting and AM applications, brought to market for the aerospace industry in over 40 years. Patented in over 30 countries, the material, claimed to be the strongest aluminum casting alloy in the world, was specifically designed for lightweight, high stress components for applications in aerospace, defense and automotive applications. The alloy was developed for AM through a collaboration between Renishaw and Aeromet International for the next-generation of high-strength aluminum technologies. This acquisition further strengthens Altana’s offerings in aerospace, particularly having gained approvals from global OEMs including Boeing who have already been using the A20X alloy. In fact, this August, despite the slowdown due to pandemic, AMT achieved a record month of orders for their A20X alloy indicating a possible resurgence in industrial AM.

“AMT and its A20X alloy complement TLS’ capabilities, enabling us to offer users even more high-performance materials in the future, including in the aerospace industry, a key market for metallic 3D printing,” says Dr. Schütt.

Both companies provide critical solutions for industrial AM, particularly for aerospace, and have enabled Altana, a German chemicals giant founded in 1977 and with €2.2 billion in revenues, to emerge as a significant player in the 3D printing metal powders space. It isn’t new to 3D printing, having collaborated with dp Polar GmbH (a company they acquired part of in 2017) to develop the latter’s AMpolar i2 3D printer platform which allows for faster (up to 20 times) and higher volume industrial material jetting solutions for the manufacture of functional components. In the material space, such acquisitions will hopefully increase competition, resulting in more competitive prices, increased supply of specialized materials, and in increased innovation for new material designed for AM applications in key industries.

As such, the last few years have seen a series of acquisitions by chemical and materials companies, specialized in 3D printing, to expand their portfolio of solutions and services in industrial 3D printing, particularly for metal applications. Since 2017, BASF has made several acquisitions including Innofil, Sculpteo, Advanc3D Materials, Setup Performance SAS, and business lines from Owens Corning to advance their 3D printing materials and services portfolio. Royal DSM acquired Swiss-based Clariant’s 3D printing materials division, and Henkel acquired industrial inkjet technology company, Molecule Corp. There’s been an increasing focus in these acquisitions to further the development of metal powders for industrial 3D printing applications in aerospace, medical, automotive and energy industries. Over the last few months, Sweden-based Sandvik acquired BeamIT’s Zare, a provider of integrated AM service provider of metal AM components, and Rena Technologies from Germany entered the AM space by acquiring local post-processing specialist Hirtenberger Surface (HES).

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