Allegheny Technologies Inc. and GE Aviation will build their joint-venture titanium alloy materials plant in Richburg, SC, adjacent to an ATI Specialty Materials melting, rolling, and forging plant. Construction is expected to begin next year, with the new operation to be in service by 2019.
The Chester County (SC) Council unanimously authorized “a fee in lieu of tax agreement” for a reported $28-million investment at the site in Richburg.
Last July, the partners agreed to establish the new company to develop technology for manufacturing "meltless titanium alloy powder," meaning materials to be used in laser sintering or other additive manufacturing processes. Details remain scarce, but ATI reported the venture would build a new pilot plant for producing the powder.
“The science of specialty metal powders is a transformative technology and we intend to maintain and enhance our industry-leading position,” Rich Harshman, ATI’s chairman, president and CEO, stated last summer.
In metal additive manufacturing (e.g., selective laser melting, or electron-beam melting), powdered alloys are deposited in defined patterns as layered sections of the final design. A laser or other heat source converts the powder to metal, bonding it to a preceding layer.
Titanium alloys of specific grades usually are atomized to achieve a reliable size and spherical structure to achieve the desired effect in the additive manufacturing process. In addition to AM processes, atomized spherical powders may be used in metal injection molding and hot isostatic pressing.
ATI manufactures titanium alloys, nickel-based alloys, and superalloys, along with stainless and specialty steels. It also produces finished products (including forgings), and lists aerospace and defense, “particularly jet engines”, as its primary customer group
ATI’s role in the joint venture is to provide operational, technical, and project support, including “technology, manufacturing, and quality leadership in the production of specialty metal powders and premium-quality titanium and nickel-based alloys".
GE Aviation will provide engineering and development resources and technical expertise on the use of alloyed titanium powders.
GE Aviation designs and manufactures turbofan, turbojet, turboshaft, and turboprop engines for commercial and military aircraft. Its operations include several material development and additive manufacturing processes.