6K has just announced that it has closed the first tranche of its Series D round of financing, for $102 million. In all, the company expects to raise a total of $150 million this spring. The money will go towards speeding up the opening of cathode production plants by 6K Energy (based in North Andover, Massachusetts), as well as expanding production of metal powders for additive manufacturing (AM) by 6K Additive (based in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania).
While the money was raised from a variety of sources, including existing 6K investors, the largest portion came from Koch Strategic Platforms (KSP), which is part of Koch Industries’ Koch Investments Group. Koch Industries is invested in metal 3D printing already, having led a $160 million dollar round of funding into Desktop Metal in 2019, through Koch Disruptive Technologies.
6K Additive began selling its proprietary line of metal powders for AM, made from recycled scrap, in 2019. In 2020, the company opened its 40,000-square-foot powder production plant, and last fall, it purchased another Pennsylvania company, Specialty Metallurgical Products. KSP, meanwhile, also made a $100 million investment last fall into Toronto-based Li-Cycle, the largest recycler of lithium-ion batteries in North America. Leadership from both 6K and Koch made it clear how vital they believe it is to American industry, for U.S. companies to have access to a domestic lithium-ion battery producer.
In a press release, Jeremy Bezdek, managing director for KSP, said, “We have been following 6K Energy’s progress since inception and have found that 6K’s UniMelt plasma technology delivers a competitive production process built on U.S. soil.”
6K’s CEO, Aaron Bent, explained, “Lithium-ion battery markets will increase tenfold in the next decade, fueled by growth in [electric vehicles], as well as supporting critical infrastructure for telecom back-up, data centers, and power plants. The fact that there is no lithium-ion battery material production on US soil is a concern for both national security and for the industries that are relying on these critical materials.”
Koch Industries, the largest privately held company in the U.S., has a long history of paying heavy fines for damages to the environment. Moreover, the Koch family is well-known for contributing large amounts to organizations that deny human responsibility for climate change. Notably, given the present story, beginning in 2016, Charles and David Koch reportedly started making millions of dollars of donations into efforts to kill the electric car. Notably, Democratic congressman Joseph Kennedy III serves on the board of 6K, while the Koch brothers are responsible for funding many Tea Party Republicans that have also played a negative role in climate progress.
The company also recently reversed an initial decision to stay in Russia following the Russian military’s recent invasion of Ukraine, and has stated that it is ceasing operations of its subsidiary, Guardian Glass, in Russia. Until shutting down, Guardian was the only U.S.-based company producing float glass — a method which requires large amounts of melted metal — operating in Russia. Guardian, which also makes a large number of other industrial products, is headquartered in Michigan.
Koch Industries now has control over two crucial assets in the metal AM sector, both located in the U.S.’s northeast corridor. Assuming 6K is successful at launching its battery production operations, Koch will not only help open the first lithium-ion battery factory in the U.S., but will probably also contribute to a significant re-routing of key aspects of global electronics supply chains.
Images courtesy of 6K Inc