6K Additive’s UniMelt Technology

Let’s be honest. No engineer, designer, or procurement professional will specify a material that puts their company at risk of delivering unacceptable parts. The last question they ask is, “How will a vendor’s metal powders meet our sustainability goals?” First, they ask about performance, quality, and cost. Don’t you?

I understand. Fortunately, with UniMelt powders and alloys, metal additive manufacturing operations no longer face an either/or situation regarding profits and the environment. With 6K Additive, performance, quality, cost, and sustainability all balance.

6K’s proprietary UniMelt® microwave plasma process produces advanced materials used in additive manufacturing, battery manufacturing and other industrial markets. The resulting high-quality metal alloys enable your AM operation to balance performance, quality, cost, and sustainability. 6K Additive produces AM powders, including nickel 718/625, Ti64 grade 5/23, copper 18450/GRCop, stainless steel 316/17-4, and refractories like tungsten and tantalum, all made from sustainable sources. 

The UniMelt Process

6K’s UniMelt system is a production-scale microwave plasma process that produces advanced materials for additive manufacturing, battery material manufacturing and other industrial markets. The fast and environmentally friendly process uses virgin, scrap and used powder as feedstock to make high-quality metal alloys for additive manufacturing. The UniMelt platform has 99% efficiency (microwave to plasma), under 2 seconds process to spheriodized powder, and is 99.999% contamination-free.

Figure 1. The UniMelt Process

Gas and Plasma Atomization: Widespread and Wasteful

The gas atomization is the most common technique for creating metal AM powders and operates by heating metal or alloy into a molten melt stream, resulting in particles that typically range from 1 to 250 microns in size. But laser powder bed fusion, the most widely used metal AM technology, requires powder particle sizes of 15 to 45 microns, with some OEMs expanding to 20 to 63 microns. The consequence? A high percentage of the gas-atomized powder is simply unusable because it falls out of the usable size range. The meager material yield burdens the remaining usable powder with high environmental and economic costs.

Plasma atomization uses wire as feedstock, which is then melted by plasma torches. In addition to the low yields of gas atomization, a significant plasma process drawback is the need to turn raw feedstock materials into wires. The production process to create metal wire can be limited, restricting the variety of AM powders available for plasma atomization. Notably, the few compatible materials are frequently sourced from countries like China and Russia, building in supply chain delays and contributing to a negative carbon footprint and potential geopolitical impacts. Using plasma atomization to make the few available AM powders from wire feedstock is a wasteful, unsustainable situation.

Figure 2. The UniMelt System

Source: 6K Additive

6 K’s Microwave Plasma Atomization: Near-Zero Waste, Today

6K’s UniMelt process uses either virgin or scrap metal as feedstock. It consumes less energy in producing metal AM powders, addressing the environmental shortcomings of the gas and plasma atomization processes. UniMelt technology recycles customers’ waste material into the supply chain and produces zero waste, minus less than 1% system loss.

Customers can also benefit by selling their scrap material to 6K Additive for credit toward their next metal AM powder purchase, creating an economic, circular, and controlled supply chain. For unique alloys, 6K Additive works directly with its customers to use their waste materials as feedstock for subsequent powder orders. This process is vital when customers develop special AM powder alloys that differentiate their metal parts.

Insight

How do you achieve ambitious environmental targets, produce quality AM parts, and remain competitive?

Understanding the expensive life-cycle cost of conventional AM powder manufacturing compared to UniMelt is the first step toward creating an authentic, sustainable circular economy. 6K Additive’s technology proves the cradle-to-cradle cost of sustainability can be financially competitive, positively impact performance and quality, and open new markets and applications.

Your free copy of the 11-page In-Depth Insights report is available here: In-depth Insights: 6K Additive’s UniMelt Technology.

Let me help you look outside the box. Whether you are a new user learning about 3D printing, someone evaluating an investment in additive manufacturing, or a vendor developing new products and services, I am here to assist you. Schedule your free insight inquiry call now at https://calendly.com/pete-basiliere