Frank Roberts, President, 6K AdditiveFrank Roberts, President
Industrial 3D printing is becoming more popular as the technology has advanced far beyond prototyping, fast tooling, trinkets, and toys. With additive manufacturing technologies, manufacturers can create long-lasting, high-quality products in moderate and large quantities for specialized applications. While it is well acknowledged that powder quality is critical for producing high-quality 3D prints, most powder production techniques are not efficient enough to produce highly spherical powders with a high yield in particle size distribution. With conventional methods, manufacturers get only 25 to 30 percent of the final desired particle size, which leaves about 70 percent of the powder not useable for additive manufacturing and therefore considered material waste. In addition most legacy powder production processes utilize feedstock from materials like titanium from regions of the world that manufacture the feedstock using dirty, environmentally unfriendly processes.

Recognizing and addressing these challenges is 6K Additive.

With over 20 years of expertise and knowledge in metal production and additive manufacturing, 6K Additive offers high quality, spheroidized powders for 3D printing with their UniMelt® microwave plasma platform that produces powders that are both high in quality and come from sustainable feedstock. “Our technology enables us to produce high-quality powders that are highly spherical, void of porosity, with the fewest satellites of any powder manufacturing technology,” says Bruce Bradshaw, Chief Marketing Officer, 6K. Additive.

By utilizing a combination of their UniMelt platform and in-house alloy reclamation technology, 6K Additive has established itself as a provider of best-in-class additive manufacturing powders. Interestingly, the company’s name denotes the working temperature, 6,000-degree, where the UniMelt platform operates. Its microwave plasma method allows them to accurately control temperatures during processing, resulting in nearly-perfect spherical powders and almost 100% yield.

Three qualities denote 6K Additive—sustainability, breadth of materials, and production volume. “UniMelt utilizes scrap material, used powder and in some cases end of life parts as feedstock and turns it into high-value powder for AM. It is an environmentally friendly technology that produces zero waste, requires no water, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and uses much less energy, paving the door for a circular or sustainable economy with respect to performance material production,” adds Frank Roberts, President, 6K Additive.

Our technology enables us to produce high-quality powders that are highly spherical, void of porosity, with the fewest satellites of any powder manufacturing technology

Moreover, 6K Additive can produce high-entropy alloy (HEAs) spherical powders for use in commercial consolidation processes such as additive manufacturing, HIP or powder forging. HEAs open limitless possibilities for having a perfect blend of elements to tailor properties such as high strength coupled with high elongation to name a few. The UniMelt process can also scale volumes for refractory powders like tungsten and rhenium which enables advanced application capabilities in aerospace, defense and medical industries. Currently, they produce 100 tons of powder per year to help clients in growing and expanding their manufacturing operations.

With such a robust production platform, 6K Additive has carved out a unique niche in the market and assists clients with material that cannot be produced using legacy technologies. For instance, a rocket component manufacturer approached them to rejuvenate and reprocess some of their powders and materials that can endure the heat, strength, and structure as well as rigors of a rocket engine. The client was using tungsten/ rhenium—a high-value refractory alloy for producing rocket engines. Using the UniMelt process, 6K Additive spheroidized their tungsten/rhenium powder and easily reached the high-quality powder requirements that is critical to their defense customers. “By renewing their scrap material and turning it into premium powder we exceeded their powder quality requirements and also lowered their overall cost of operation.” says Bruce.

Striding forward, 6K Additive plans to expand production by 600 tons per year to cater to clients across Europe and Asia. In addition, with the acquisition of Specialty Metallurgical Products (SMP), the company has expanded their metal alloys offering. Adding SMP’s titanium products will complement 6K’s existing offering while enhancing its expertise in the process.

The focus for 6K Additive is to continue offering world-class powders from sustainable sources to their customers and continue to expand the current portfolio. “Our company will diversify its metal offerings to include copper and aluminum, as well as continue to expand our nickel and stainless steel offerings,” concludes Frank.