Showcasing their offerings at Formnext 2021, advanced materials company 6K Additive and open source 3D printing hardware developer Freemelt announced a strategic partnership to develop refractory metal powder for the Electron Beam Powder 3D printer platform Freemelt Bed Fusion (EB-PBF), the Freemelt One. The new high performance materials will be suitable for aerospace, hypersonic and medical applications.
Refractory materials such as tungsten have many desirable attributes. They are resistant to heat and wear, and they have a high level of hardness. However, there remains a limited production of refractory metal AM materials. Steel, nickel, titanium, aluminum and copper all occupy a larger share of the AM materials market. This is in part due to the very high melting point of refractory metals, with only high performance L-PBF and directed energy deposition systems (including EB-PBF) able to process them.
However, despite the relative scarcity of printable refractory metals, there is a growing demand for them. “Since the commercial launch of refractory metal powder, we have seen a ton of interest in refractories, especially tungsten,” said Frank Roberts, president of 6K Additive.
According to 6K Additive and Freemelt, the new partnership could meet this growing demand. The companies claim that 6K Additive (a division of Massachusetts-based advanced materials company 6K) has the expertise and scale of production to produce high-performance refractory powders, as evidenced by its new 45,000 powder production facility. square feet in Burgettstown, PA, with two UniMelt microwave plasma systems, which opened in 2020. Meanwhile, Freemelt, a growing Swedish high-tech company, is providing a platform for printing of refractory metal parts to a satisfactory level. Its Freemelt One system is mainly used for materials development.
Sought after materials
“The market is constantly asking us for high-performance materials,” says Dr Ulric Ljungblad, CEO of Freemelt. “Partnering with 6K Additive gives us and our customers a material supplier that not only provides high quality metallic powder, but quickly brings desirable performance materials like tungsten and other refractory metals to market. “
Freemelt’s Freemelt One open source platform offers complete control of the electron beam and is used by companies and research institutes. First announced in early 2017, it has become the world’s first open source platform for EB-PBF technology. Freemelt shares started trading on the Swedish Nasdaq earlier this year.