6K Additive Makes Some Big Moves

By on July 2nd, 2020 in materials

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New UniMelt 3D printing metal powder production unit [Source: 6K Additive]

6K Additive has commissioned their first units and at the same time has landed a sustainable client.

The Massachusetts-based company has developed an unusual process for the production of very high-quality metal powders, suitable for use in 3D printers as well as other applications. Their microwave plasma process involves using a microwave to precisely generate a 6000K plasma, which allows them to produce uniform metal particles at 90-95% efficiency.

That efficiency should enable the company to break the high-cost barrier of metal 3D printing powders that has constrained use of the technology for decades, depending on how they choose to set their product prices.

Their process also allows the possibility of developing highly unusual and previously impossible alloys of unlike metals, as we saw at Formnext last fall.

6K Additive Commissioning

At that time they informed us they planned to set up operations in Pennsylvania in the future, and it seems that’s exactly what they’ve done. This week they announced the commissioning of two commercial UniMelt systems. They say:

“6K Additive has commissioned the first two commercial UniMelt systems in its new 40,000 square foot state-of-the-art manufacturing plant located in Bugettstown, PA. The news not only represents a landmark milestone for 6K, but also for global sustainable manufacturing as premium metal Additive Manufacturing (AM) powders from sustainable sources become a reality.”

Their next step is to complete testing of the products produced by these units, and they expect to provide samples to customers and prospects in August. The first material to be sampled will be their Onyx In718 material, and later they’ll sample Onyx Ti64.

Relativity Space Partnership

3D printed rockets will be made with recycled 3D print metal powder [Source: Relativity Space]

Their second and perhaps more important announcement was a partnership with Relativity Space, a startup company intending on 3D printing entire rockets for space travel. 6K Additive says:

“The partnership is intended to create a closed loop supply chain where certified scrap materials produced at Relativity are turned into powder by 6K, which can then be reprinted by Relativity. The two companies will also explore new materials created specifically for rocket manufacturing and space travel.”

Thus it seems Relativity Space is taking advantage of 6K Additive’s recycling capability. Their high-efficiency production process is able to accept many types of scrap metal as input raw material, whereas traditional powder processes are so inefficient it’s not worth doing.

I suspect this is quite important for Relativity Space, as they are no doubt iterating through multiple designs for their rocket engines, and by recycling the metals used in each iteration they could potentially save a considerable sum on metal purchases.

That’s because their current sources of 3D print metal powder are the traditional providers who suffer from inefficient processes and thus have high product prices. The switch to 6K Additive powder will save them plenty of cash.

The arrangement also will provide 6K Additive with a powerful demonstration of their product and recycling process. This could be something they can show to other potential clients and thus grow their operations significantly.

It sounds like good news for all involved.

Via 6K Additive and Relativity Space

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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