"If the AM industry is to succeed in expanding to a far greater number of parts and market applications, powder production technology has to advance to provide a far stronger business case,” says Dr Aaron Bent, CEO at 6K. “Part of enabling that expansion will come from a lower total cost structure and higher performance powders, both of which are possible with our process. But we need to go beyond that, to powders and business models that consider the full production cost of building AM parts.”
6K has developed a process technology that can produce premium powder from certified machined swarf and chips, and previously used powders, and in the future extend its capability to feedstock created from AM support structures, non-conforming AM post-print parts, and other inputs. The goal is to use 100% of the materials that enter the supply chain, providing AM end users a new way to manage project costs and control the supply chain, while also progressing toward a circular economy in AM.
Powder products from 6K are the combination of two core technologies: 6K Alloy Reclamation technology and the 6K UniMelt plasma system.
6K Alloy Reclamation technology offers the ability to reclaim metals and alloys from subtractive manufacturing and other operations. The 6K Additive team is already reclaiming and selling over 500 tons of Ti-64 per year into the aluminium alloying industry for aerospace, medical and automotive products. This provides an engineered feedstock for Amastan’s UniMelt plasma for a wide continuum of alloys.
6K says that its UniMelt plasma system is the world’s only microwave production-scale plasma, with a uniform and precise plasma zone offering zero contamination. UniMelt is capable of the high throughput production of advanced battery powders, phosphors, AM materials and more.
“Our ability to reclaim materials and process almost any type of metal, alloy or ceramic feedstock into premium powders, puts a powerful tool into the hands of the AM designer,” continues Dr Bent. “This means that any machined alloy has the potential to become powder. Furthermore, we can create new AM powders previously not possible: powders engineered from non-eutectic alloys, such as high-entropy alloys, or designer aluminum alloys capable of printing in powder-bed fusion systems.”
Due to the high uniformity of the microwave plasma, 6K has the ability to produce powders that provide high sphericity, zero porosity, elimination of satellites, high flow capability and tap density. Through its metals reclamation strategy, 6K can specifically target the powder size distribution to the AM process of need: MIM, L-PBF, EBM, DED or binder-jetting, thus enabling almost 100% UniMelt process yield, which is as much as 3-4 times higher than gas atomisation.
As part of 6K’s launch, the company is rebranding from Amastan Technologies to 6K. This is the latest in a series of strategic initiatives that reflect the company’s growth over the last year, including series B-2 funding of $11 million and the acquisition of AI Solutions (now 6K Additive).
6K Additive is an ISO9001 facility and is in the process of building a 40,000 sq ft production facility for AM powders, which is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2020.