6K, a developer of microwave plasma technology for the production of advanced materials, and its 6K Additive division have been awarded a Phase ll SBIR program from the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), following the strong success of its Phase I. The Phase II program supports the development and commercialization of a domestic and commercially scalable supply chain for strategic high-performance metal powders from scrap sources. Utilizing 6K’s proprietary UniMelt® microwave plasma platform the program will demonstrate 6K’s capability to source, process, and reclaim nickel superalloy scrap components, shop scrap, and used powders for conversion into aerospace-grade powders. The new powders will be used to additively manufacture real-world, discrete printed parts that will demonstrate functionality in testbeds or systems.
“As a company, we are certainly pleased with the award, but more importantly, we’re proud as an organization to help our country create and control a domestic supply for alloys such as nickel used for emerging production methods like additive manufacturing. The recent COVID 19 pandemic highlights the importance of controlling supply chain and the renewed need for domestic production to avoid interruption of critical supplies,” commented Dr. Aaron Bent, CEO of 6K (3dpbm interviewed Dr. Bent earlier this year).
6K’s UniMelt plasma production system is uniquely capable of converting high-value metal scrap of numerous forms into high-performance metal powders for additive manufacturing, metal injection molding and other powder metallurgy production techniques. By doing so the company provides for the first time, access to a vast domestic supply of strategically important metals and alloys such as nickel and titanium from machine shops, boneyards, and sources of other used materials which are critical to the mission of the modern warfighter. The patented 6K process cleans, prepares, and spheroidizes scrap alloys into high-quality powders with performance superior to atomization technologies. This process will provide the US military with a secure, traceable domestic supply of critical materials while eliminating unexpected performance anomalies due to questionable sourcing from foreign supply.
6K has worked with several members of congress gaining support for the company’s efforts in utilizing defense scrap material as feedstock for the UniMelt process in support of reducing the dependence on foreign supply. Congressman Guy Reschenthaler commented on 6K’s efforts in this area, “Southwestern Pennsylvania’s job creators, innovators, and hardworking employees are critical to our national defense and efforts to provide vital resources to our warfighters,” said Pennsylvania Congressman Guy Reschenthaler. “I was proud to secure funding to reduce dependence on foreign titanium and utilize American ingenuity to protect our national security.”
6K has recently commissioned its new 40,000 square foot state-of-the-art metal powder production facility and will begin shipping traditional powder products in the fall of 2020.
Superalloys are used in critical propulsion and heat mitigation components in the hottest, most corrosive, most demanding components in aircraft and rocket engines, gas turbines, oil and gas equipment, and heat exchangers.
The US DoD stands to benefit in several ways through the program: from reducing the risk of dependence on foreign supply to working in a closed-loop to enhance security, bringing advanced systems faster to the field while managing costs and maximizing quality.