Rio supplies aluminium-scandium alloy for 3D printing

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Rio Tinto has signed an agreement with Amaero to provide a first commercial batch of high-performance aluminium-scandium alloy for 3D printing.

This first sale of 3D printable aluminium-scandium alloys is being delivered from Rio Tinto’s North American operations and thanks to the company’s position as a producer of both aluminium and scandium, and its technical capability to develop specialized alloys.

Under the agreement, Rio Tinto will deliver alloy billets made of responsibly produced, low-carbon aluminium from its hydro-powered Canadian smelters and high-purity scandium oxide from its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec. The billets will be processed by Amaero (a leader in metal additive manufacturing) into powder for 3D printing and offered to the market for high temperature applications.

Aluminium-scandium alloy for 3D printing supplied from Canadian plant

The scandium oxide will be supplied from a new plant Rio Tinto is building in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, bringing the first North American supply source to the world. The plant will use an innovative recovery process developed by Rio Tinto scientists to extract high-purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining.

The companies will also collaborate to develop the supply chain for Amaero’s high-performance, High Operating Temperature Aluminium Alloy (Amaero HOT Al), and commercialize this lightweight material for applications in the aerospace, defence and other industries.

“Aluminium-scandium alloy the material of choice where lightweight and high strength is needed”

Rio Tinto Aluminium’s vice-president for Sales and Marketing, Tolga Egrilmezer, said: “As the first producer of high-quality scandium oxide in North America, Rio Tinto is uniquely positioned to provide a secure source of aluminium-scandium alloy to the market. Aluminium-scandium alloy is the material of choice where a lightweight, high-strength material with thermal resistance and good welding properties is needed, such as for defence and aerospace applications. This first sale demonstrates our ability to develop products that meet our customers’ needs, drawing on our technical expertise and world class assets.”

Amaero CEO Barrie Finnin said: “We are very pleased to purchase the first commercial batch of aluminium scandium alloy from a North American source. This is an important step in the commercialization of this high-performance alloy that will be used in our breakthrough 3D metal printing technology. We look forward to working with Rio Tinto to progress the production of the alloy so we can commence the qualification process with key customers in the aerospace sector and other industries.”

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