6K Additive, a division of 6K, headquartered in North Andover, Massachusetts, USA, has reported the results of an independent life cycle assessment (LCA) of its metal powder production process for Additive Manufacturing. The assessment was completed by sustainability and energy firm Foresight Management, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, and is said to be the first LCA of a powder for Additive Manufacturing ever completed.
The assessment sought to compare the quantifiable environmental impacts between traditional metal powder production methods and 6K Additive’s proprietary UniMelt® process. 6K Additive states that the results show the UniMelt process significantly reduces environmental impact in the key areas of energy usage and global warming, potentially helping 6K Additive customers lower their carbon footprint using metal Additive Manufacturing.
6K Additive produces Additive Manufacturing powder made from sustainable sources and its UniMelt system is said to be the only microwave production-scale plasma with a highly uniform and precise plasma zone offering zero contamination. UniMelt is capable of high throughput production of advanced materials including nickel 718/625, titanium 64 grade 5/23, copper 18450/GRCop, stainless steel 316/17-4, refractories such as tungsten and tantalum.
Frank Roberts, 6K Additive president, stated, “This assessment goes a long way in revealing how the UniMelt process exceeds traditional metal powder processing in environmentally important ways, while also pointing to the inefficiencies of atomisation that currently plague AM material production. Sustainability is at the core of who we are at 6K Additive and providing our customers with quantifiable numbers related to the environment helps them move closer to zero carbon manufacturing with AM.”
Foresight Management conducts life cycle assessments on products for companies to help them understand the impact their processes have on a global environmental scale. Its methodology includes primary and secondary data, as well as using professional GaBi software to provide data detailing the environmental impact of sourcing, refining, and processing.
“This is a cradle-to-end user assessment of the UniMelt technology,” commented Brad Van Valkenburg, Sustainability Manager at Foresight. “We studied all known industrial processes from raw material acquisition and processing up through manufacturing and customer distribution. This assessment focused on nickel and titanium powders, both of which saw significant advantages when made using UniMelt process. The nickel results showed the UniMelt required 91% less energy and reduced carbon emissions by 92% and the titanium results showed the UniMelt required at a minimum, 74% less energy and reduced carbon emissions by 78%.”
6K Additive explains that organisations are starting to look to their suppliers to offer statistics that help them with their sustainability journey. Many companies are now asking for hard facts to back up sustainability claims and this study provides 6K Additive customers with information that may help them advance their Additive Manufacturing initiatives.