NORTH ANDOVER, Mass.—Refractory metal powders for additive manufacturing are now commercially available from 6K Additive. The materials, such as tungsten, rhenium, tungsten/rhenium and niobium-based powders, are valued in the defense, aerospace, and medical industries for their performance in high-temperature, high-strength applications, the company said in a release. 6K Additive is a division of 6K, a producer of sustainable advanced materials for additive manufacturing and energy storage.
“The leading defense organizations are not only looking for refractory materials, like tungsten and rhenium, they are looking for it at production scale,” said Frank Roberts, president of 6K Additive, in the release. “The uniqueness of 6K’s UniMelt® microwave plasma process, combined with the expertise of our operations team, has allowed us to manufacture production- scale volumes for many of the refractory powders, like tungsten and tungsten/rhenium.”
Roberts went on to say that 6K Additive has “spheroidized the full spectrum of refractory powders, including tantalum, niobium, and molybdenum,” and stands ready to “help organizations advance their applications with these materials.”
Quadrus Corporation, based in Huntsville, Alabama, recently used 6K Additive’s services for making spherical tungsten-rhenium that Quadrus subsequently used to produce a non-eroding throat insert for a solid rocket motor nozzle.
“We have a focus on propulsion applications that require high-temperature, high-strength materials used in modern rocket nozzle applications,” said Joe Sims, director of the Quadrus Advanced Manufacturing Division, in the release. “Our tungsten/rhenium powder, spheroidized by 6K, processed exceptionally well in our selective laser melting machines. Having a reliable, trusted supply chain partner like 6K Additive for refractory materials is critical to our business and to our defense customers. Our powder quality requirements are extremely high and 6K Additive easily cleared that hurdle for us.”
In 2020, 6K Additive (www.6KAdditive.com) completed the construction of a state-of-the-art, 45,000-square-foot powder production facility in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. The facility currently has two UniMelt microwave plasma systems commissioned, and two additional systems are scheduled for installation in the fourth quarter of this year. The company will also begin construction during the quarter to expand the powder manufacturing building and add space for six additional systems. Installation of the additional systems are scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2022, the company said in the release.
The UniMelt system is reported to be the world’s only microwave production-scale plasma system. It has a highly uniform and precise plasma zone with zero contamination and high throughput production capabilities, according to 6K Additive.
Along with the announced refractory materials, 6K Additive currently produces, as commercially available powders, Ti6Al4V (Grade 5 and Grade 23), SS316Lm and nickel superalloys Ni718 and Ni625, the company said.