Alcoa has announced $60 million expansion plans to include a state-of-the-art Additive Manufacturing facility at its Alcoa Technical Center, the world’s largest light metals research centre near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Focused on feedstock materials, processes, product design and qualification, Alcoa states that it will be producing materials designed specifically for a range of additive technologies to meet increasing demand for complex, high-performance 3D-printed parts for aerospace and other high-growth markets such as automotive, medical and construction.
“Alcoa is investing in the next generation of 3D printing for aerospace and beyond,” stated Alcoa Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld. “Combining our expertise in metal alloys, manufacturing, design and product qualification, we will push beyond the limits of today’s Additive Manufacturing. This investment strengthens our leadership position in meeting fast-growing demand for aerospace components made using additive technologies.”
This expansion of the Alcoa Technical Center builds on Alcoa’s Additive Manufacturing capabilities in California, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas. The company has been creating 3D-printed tools, moulds and prototypes for the past 20 years and owns and operates one of the world’s largest Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) complexes. Through the recent RTI acquisition, Alcoa gained 3D printing capabilities in titanium, other specialty metals and plastics for the aerospace, oil and gas and medical markets. This expansion positions Alcoa to industrialise its advanced 3D printing capabilities across these and other manufacturing facilities.
Construction of the new facility is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2016. The project will create more than 100 full-time positions, including materials specialists, design experts, and process and inspection technologists.
Alcoa also announced the development of a new process combining additive and traditional manufacturing techniques. With Alcoa’s new Ampliforge™ process the company designs and 3D-prints a near complete part, it then treats it using a traditional manufacturing process such as forging.
The company states that the process can enhance the properties of 3D-printed parts, such as increasing toughness and strength, versus parts made solely by Additive Manufacturing. Further, the Ampliforge™ process significantly reduces material input and simplifies production relative to traditional forging processes. Alcoa is piloting the technique at its facilities in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, USA.
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