In a recent interview at Formnext, Frank Roberts, President of 6K Additive, offered a deep dive into the company’s innovative approach to manufacturing premium powders for additive manufacturing (AM), highlighting the company’s strong emphasis on sustainability.
Sustainable Manufacturing of High-Quality Powders
6K Additive distinguishes itself by its unique method of producing high-purity, spherical powders from revert materials. Roberts explained: “We take revert materials — primarily aerospace-grade materials from both subtractive and additive manufacturing processes — and produce high-purity powders for AM, the ‘ink’ in the metal 3D printer.”
Roberts emphasized that sustainability at 6K Additive does not compromise quality. “Our revert material-based powders typically mean higher quality,” he stated, noting that these powders are produced with significantly lower energy and carbon emissions. This approach allows customers to attain excellent product performance while also meeting their aggressive sustainability goals and improving their overall ESG scores.
Core to Business: Upcycling and Microwave-Based Plasma Technology
“For over 30 years, we’ve been sustainable… much longer than it’s been ‘cool’!,” Roberts remarked. The company’s core capabilities include upcycling materials from subtractive manufacturing into engineered feedstock and coupling this with their Unimelt technology, a microwave-based plasma platform, to create high-quality powders.
This process is tailored to meet the specific particle size demands of customers, achieving high yields and efficiency. “We inject this feedstock into the plasma to very rapidly create highly spherical powder,” Roberts explained.
Efficiency and Sustainability in Production
The company’s production process is notable for its efficiency, particularly in the plasma system. “Our microwave-based plasma system effectively couples 99% of energy into plasma creation, making it a very efficient way of manufacturing powders for 3D printing,” Roberts added.
Roberts also highlighted a demonstration part made by Cumberland Additive using Inconel 718 powder produced by 6K Additive. “This showcases our ability to close the loop in recycling and the circular economy,” he says. By partnering with customers who are also suppliers, 6K Additive manages a closed sustainability loop, controlling the supply chain and contributing to a more streamlined and sustainable manufacturing process.