Rio Tinto develops new atomised steel powder for 3D printing

“This is a new generation of steel powders designed for 3D printing at RTFT’s metallurgical complex, where we have over 50 years of experience in making steel and iron powders,” Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium managing director Stéphane Leblanc said in a media release.

“Our new additive manufacturing steel powder grade, produced with the largest water atomiser in North America, brings a very competitive raw material addition to the growing 3D market,” Leblanc said.

RTFT operates an opencast ilmenite mine at Lac Tio near Havre-Saint-Pierre, on Quebec’s north shore. The ore is used to produce high-quality titanium dioxide feedstock, pig iron, steel and metal at RTFT’s metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy. Together, the sites employ over 1,600 people. RTFT has operated in Quebec for 70 years and pioneered the process of removing iron from ilmenite.

Over the past decade, RTFT has focused on developing, marketing and fine-tuning the UGS process, which produces a slag with a very high titanium dioxide content sold to pigment producers.

Founded in 1967, RTFT’s Critical Minerals and Technology Centre researches process improvement and develops new products. The Centre features state-of-the-art equipment and highly specialised instruments, such as inductively coupled plasma spectrometers, X-ray diffractometers, atomic absorption units, image analysers, scanning electron microscopes and powder metallurgy testing laboratory.

Meanwhile, South Australian hi-tech manufacturer AML3D says it is ramping up production of its 3D printing and robotic welding units in response to increasing global demand.

The Adelaide-based company is also growing its contract manufacturing from its Edinburgh Parks facility in the city’s north as customers from around the world utilise the technology to produce components for the marine, defence and mining industries.

On Friday, one of AML3D’s Arcemy units was unveiled at Rowlands Metalworks in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, which the sheet metal manufacturer says is a key to expanding its defence work nationally.

The Arcemy unit is capable of producing up to 10kg of product an hour and will be used to diversify Rowlands’ product offering and help it meet the demands of next-generation defence projects in South Australia and nationally.

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