Alcoa Opens 3-D Printing Metal Powders Plant

UPPER BURRELL, Pa. – Alcoa opened its 3-D printing metal powders production facility Wednesday at the Alcoa Technology Center outside of Pittsburgh where it will produce proprietary titanium, nickel and aluminum powders optimized for 3-D printed aerospace parts.

The production facility is part of a $60 million expansion of the Alcoa Technical Center announced last September that company officials said would bring total employment there to about 600.

“Alcoa is forging a leadership path in additive manufacturing with a sharp focus on the critical input material — metal powders,” said Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld in a written statement. “We are combining our expertise in metallurgy, manufacturing, design and product qualification to push beyond the possibilities of today’s 3-D printing technologies for aerospace and other growth markets.”

Metal powders used for 3-D printing of durable aerospace parts are available in limited quantities, the company noted in its announcement. Through this expansion, Alcoa said it would develop materials with the specific properties needed to 3-D print high-performance components.

In addition to producing powders, Alcoa said it is focused on advancing a range of additive techniques, including its recently unveiled Ampliforge process, a hybrid technique that combines additive and traditional manufacturing. Using the trademarked process, Alcoa designs and 3-D prints a near complete part, then treats it using a traditional manufacturing process, such as forging. The process enhances the properties of 3-D printed parts, increasing toughness and strength versus parts made solely by additive manufacturing, and significantly reduces material input, the company said. Alcoa is piloting the technique at plants in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Through the acquisition of RTI International Metals, completed last July, Alcoa gained 3-D printing capabilities in titanium and other specialty metals, the company noted.

Airbus recently selected Alcoa to supply 3-D printed titanium fuselage and engine pylon parts for commercial aircraft. Alcoa said it expects to deliver the first additive manufactured parts under the agreement later this year.

Meanwhile, the company is preparing to spin off its mining, refining and smelting businesses, which will form Alcoa Corp. Its operations that make high-value industrial parts, including metal powders plant, will be organized under the name Arconic.

Pictured: Alcoa’s metal powders production facility in Upper Burrell, Pa.

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