Alcoa is expanding its light metals research and development center in Pennsylvania to meet increasing demand for complex, high-performance 3D-printed parts for aerospace and other high-growth markets such as automotive, medical and building and construction.
The $60 million expansion of the Alcoa Technical Center near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will allow the company to accelerate the development of advanced 3D-printing materials and processes.
The company will be piloting its new Ampliforge process at the expanded facility. Ampliforge is a technique that combines advanced materials, designs and additive and traditional manufacturing processes. Using the Ampliforge process, Alcoa designs and 3D-prints a near complete part, then treats it using a traditional manufacturing process, such as forging. The company has shown that the process can not only increase toughness and strength of 3D-printed parts compared to parts made solely by additive manufacturing, it also significantly reduces material input and simplifies production relative to traditional forging processes. Through the Ampliforge process, the company aims to improve production speeds, reduce costs and achieve geometries not possible through traditional methods.
Alcoa also plans to produce proprietary aluminum, titanium and nickel powders designed specifically for 3D printing. These powders will be tailored for various additive manufacturing processes to produce higher strength 3D-printed parts and meet other quality and performance requirements.
Construction of the new facility is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2016.