Grave to cradle, using novel plasma processing to make quality AM powder materials from scrap

P. Antoinette, S. Badwe
Amastan Technologies,
United States

Keywords: additive manufacturing, plasma, end of life parts, machine scrap, ti64, inconel, superalloys


Additive Manufacturing (AM) is fast becoming the major paradigm shift in manufacturing where a single piece of equipment fabricates finished parts from virtual designs, in complex forms not achievable with traditional machining or casting, all while streamlining the development process and dramatically reducing time to fabricate, qualify and put into use new parts. Key to achieving the promise of AM is the availability of metal powders of high quality, reliable /reproducible performance on all AM printer formats, and importantly, that are more affordable. Amastan Technologies (N. Andover, MA) invented and has scaled a novel microwave-based plasma production technology, trade named UniMelt™, to spheroidize and tailor ceramic, metal, and inorganic materials to meet the requirements of industrial users. Operating at 6000 Kelvin, the UniMelt™ process has demonstrated the capability to manufacture a wide range of spheroidized materials with particular usefulness for additive manufacturing including: Ti64, CPTi, Inconel, stainless steel, CoCr, and Rhenium to name a few. Many of the most important AM advanced materials, titanium and nickel based superalloys for example, are expensive due to their limited domestic supply. A cost reduction solution exists in nation’s boneyards, MRO facilities, and machine shops. End-of-life parts and shop scrap are an untapped source of strategic metals, provided they can be recycled into materials with properties that meet requirements for original AM parts manufacturing. The flexibility of the Unimelt plasma process uniquely enables the utilization of scrap” or used powders as feedstock to produce new AM quality powders thus enabling “Grave to Cradle™” life cycle management. This recycling approach helps create a broader domestic supply of expensive materials at reduced materials cost that will help bring down AM system operating costs overall. This talk will describe the Unimelt production process; exploring how scrap is recycled to create premium additive manufacturing powders with engineered control of size & diameter, morphology & density, and chemical composition. Their current use on laser bed, Ebeam, and binder-jet AM systems will also be described.