MELD achieves Additive Manufacturing of large parts using ‘off-the-shelf’ Al 6061

April 18, 2020

Large scale components additively manufactured from aluminium 6061 using the MELD process (Courtesy MELD Manufacturing Corporation)

MELD Manufacturing Corporation, Christiansburg, Virginia, USA, reports that is has reached “a milestone for large part manufacturing” with the Additive Manufacturing of components larger than of 1.4 m in diameter using ‘off-the-shelf’ aluminium 6061. MELD® is a patented friction welding process used for the building and repair of metal components using off-the-shelf material. The MELD process does not involve melting and is capable of Additive Manufacturing fully dense parts. 

According to MELD, the 1.4 m components have solid walls, some of which are more than 100 mm thick; the size of these components represents the advantages that the open-air machine offers in scalability. The use of aluminium 6061 is notable because, despite its widespread utilisation in industry, it is so far incompatible with other metal AM technologies. Using MELD technology, the metal Additive Manufacturing of large Al 6061 structures typically produced using forging can now be additively manufactured on demand.  

Dr Chase Cox, Director of Technology, MELD Manufacturing Corporation, explained that a reduction in domestic mills and forges has created more demand than foreign capacity can supply, and the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) has exacerbated delays globally. 

“Prior to the pandemic our customer told us that these parts, printed in a few days at MELD, would have taken them up to two years to get from their supply chain,” he stated. “This global economic shutdown likely added six months or more to that two-year lead time estimate. MELD represents an opportunity to re-establish domestic manufacturing capability at a critical time.”

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