GKN and GE Additive sign MoU for additive manufacturing collaboration

The metal additive manufacturing market saw increased collaboration today with news of a partnership between two major players in the metal 3D printing industry. GKN plc (LSE:GKN), a global engineering group, and GE Additive have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The collaboration will see GKN become development and production partner, working on a range of powder bed and “freeform deposition technologies”.

Since GE Additive acquired a controlling interest in additive machine providers Concept Laser and ArcamEBM, the company has been working on the ATLAS. Launching at formnext 2017, the ATLAS metal 3D printer has a 1m3  build volume.

Metal powder production pooling

GE Additive are also the owners of metal additive manufacturing material provider AP&C. Based in Canada, AP&C has continued to expand production capacity with the construction of reactors required to make spherical metal powders. Presently AP&C supply somewhere between 50-70% of all Titanium metal powder used in additive manufacturing and have an total annual production capacity of approximately 750 tons.

At GKN Powder Metallurgy comprises GKN Sinter Metals and Hoeganaes. In July 2017, U.S. production at the GKN Hoeganaes Powder Innovation Center in Cinnaminson, NJ commenced. The 10,000 ft2 (930 m2) state of the art facility for advanced metal powder atomizing is part of a joint venture with TLS Technik of Germany.

Metal additive powder includes, AncorTi™ 6Al4V and nickel and ferrous based materials. Under development is a family of new powder alloys for additive manufacturing. These include titanium powders for applications requiring “high oxidation-resistance, specialized nickel-based alloys to be for high temperature applications, and nickel-titanium powders engineered for use in advanced medical devices.”

This year has seen an increasing number of companies enter – and return – to the additive metal powder market.

GKN, via Hoeganaes subsidiary Digital Metal AB, commenced commercial production of its 3D metal binder jet printers.

Alexander Sakratidis Sales Manager at Digital Metal holding his 3D printed likeness. Photo by Michael Petch.
Alexander Sakratidis Sales Manager at Digital Metal holding his 3D printed likeness. Photo by Michael Petch.

Additive manufacturing leaders comment

Under the new MoU GKN will become a non-exclusive preferred supplier of powder to GE Additive and GE’s industrial businesses, while GE Additive will become non-exclusive preferred suppliers of AM machines to GKN and its affiliates.

Mohammad Ehteshami, Vice President and General Manager of GE Additive, said: “GE Additive and GKN both understand the transformative power that additive manufacturing will have to a range of industries. Additive machines from Concept Laser and Arcam will bring tremendous value to this GKN relationship and we look forward to collaborating more closely in the future.”

GE Additive's Mohammad Ehteshami speaking at the 1st Munich Technology Conference. Photo by Michael Petch.
GE Additive’s Mohammad Ehteshami speaking at the 1st Munich Technology Conference. Photo by Michael Petch.

GKN has three divisions,  GKN Aerospace, GKN Driveline and GKN Powder Metallurgy, which operate in the aerospace and automotive markets. The company employs more than 58,000 people and recorded sales of £9.4 billion for the most financial financial year of 2016. Recently, GKN Additive, a dedicated Additive Manufacturing division, was announced.

Jos Sclater, Head of Strategy at GKN, said: “We look forward to collaborating with GE Additive on this revolutionary technology. GKN has a strong history of producing and certifying AM parts and powder, and this distinctive dual expertise enables us to create competitive solutions for our customers.  By working together, GKN and GE can accelerate future developments in additive manufacturing and meet the growing demand we’re seeing across a range of industries.”

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Featured image shows GKN Powder Metallurgy. Image via GKN.