Airbus has made no secret of its interest in advanced additive manufacturing. Just last month, the massive aircraft manufacturer announced its plans to 3D print half of its future airplane fleet in the coming decades, and has been investing in several 3D printing companies with the technology to make that a reality.
It makes sense then that Airbus would seek to align itself with Alcoa, which itself has been taking major steps to increase its expertise in the metal additive manufacturing industry, and specifically, in the 3D printing of aerospace components.
Last year, Alcoa began by acquiring RTI International Metals to grow its multi-material aerospace and automotive portfolio. Now known as Alcoa Titanium & Engineered Products (ATEP), this acquisition allowed Alcoa to expand its additive manufacturing capabilities to include 3D printed titanium and other speciality metal parts.
At the same time, Alcoa invested $22 million into Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) technology, which strengthens the metallic structures of traditional and additive manufactured parts made from titanium and nickel based superalloys. Through that strategic investment, Alcoa now operates one of the largest aerospace HIP technology complexes in the world, located in Whitehall, Michigan.
Finally, in September 2015, Alcoa invested a whooping $60 million into yet another expansion, this time focusing on the research and development of advanced 3D printing materials, including metallic powders. Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Alcoa Technical Center is considered the world’s largest institute for light metals research. The company has also been working alongside fellow metal 3D printing specialist Norsk Titanium in related aerospace projects.