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November 2015

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Expanded R&D Center to Deepen Additive Manufacturing Capabilities



Lightweight metals manufacturer Alcoa is expanding its R&D center in Pennsylvania (rendering of additive manufacturing facility shown here) to accelerate the development of advanced 3-D-printing materials and processes.

Alcoa's Infographic for Advancing Additive Manufacturing

Alcoa is expanding its R&D center in Pennsylvania to accelerate the development of advanced 3-D-printing materials and processes. Alcoa will produce materials designed specifically for a range of additive technologies to meet increasing demand for complex, high-performance 3-D-printed parts for aerospace and other high-growth markets such as automotive, medical and building and construction. The $60 million expansion is under construction at the Alcoa Technical Center, a light metals research center near Pittsburgh, PA.

Alcoa has announced its Ampliforge process, a technique combining advanced materials, designs and additive and traditional manufacturing processes. Using the Ampliforge process, Alcoa designs and 3-D-prints a near complete part, then treats it using a traditional manufacturing process, such as forging. The company has shown that the process can enhance the properties of 3-D-printed parts, such as increasing toughness and strength, versus parts made solely by additive manufacturing. Further, the Ampliforge process is designed to reduce material input and simplifies production relative to traditional forging processes. Alcoa is piloting the technique in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

The company's comprehensive approach to advancing additive manufacturing includes:

  • Materials: Alcoa's material scientists will produce proprietary aluminum, titanium and nickel powders designed specifically for 3-D-printing. These powders will be tailored for various additive manufacturing processes to produce higher strength 3-D-printed parts and meet other quality and performance requirements. "Aloca has a long history in metal alloy and powder development, having invented over 90 percent of the aluminum alloys used in aerospace today and with a 100 year history in aluminum metal powder development for rocket fuel, paint and other products," said a company spokesperson.
  • Combination of process and design: Alcoa will further its development of advanced 3-D-printing design and manufacturing techniques - such as Alcoa's Ampliforge process - to improve production speeds, reduce costs and achieve geometries not possible through traditional methods. Direct production of 3-D-printed metal parts represents a new way to manufacture aerospace components and requires a new suite of innovative design tools to realize its full potential. By connecting Aloca's materials scientists with Aloca's manufacturing experts, Aloca enables a rapid development feedback loop to inform new software tools and processes that take full advantage of additive capabilities.
  • Qualification: "Alcoa will use its testing and process control expertise to overcome challenges with certifying new 3-D-printed parts, starting with aerospace applications," stated an Alcoa spokesperson.

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 3-D-printed tools, molds and prototypes for the past 20 years and owns and operates a HIP (Hot Isostatic Pressing) complex, a technology that strengthens the metallic structures of traditional and additive manufactured parts made of titanium and nickel based super-alloys. Through the recent RTI acquisition, Alcoa gained 3-D printing capabilities in titanium, other specialty metals and plastics for the aerospace, oil and gas and medical markets.

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 - by 2017 and approximately 45 temporary jobs during construction.

For more information contact:

Alcoa Inc.

201 Isabella Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15212

412-553-4545

www.alcoa.com

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