We will remember spring 2020 as a period of confinements that led to the shutdown of several activities around the world. For Luisa Elena Mondora and Matteo Vanazzi, in addition to the pandemic that hit their beloved country – Italy – even more than most countries, spring 2020 also comes with the memory of the creation of F3nice. Both cofounders actually came up with the idea of F3nice in 2019, on the heels of an analysis in the Oil & Gas industries. With the decommissioning of offshore assets for the oldest oil fields in the North Sea, and the digital inventory for on-demand and “just in time” production of spare parts, they investigated the possibilities to use the high value scrap metal from offshore decom to power a circular economy project. The two entrepreneurs ambitioned then to produce sustainable AM feedstock that could empower the metal AM industry and in particular, the digital inventory initiative.
As you may have seen in our interview with Equinor in this edition of 3D ADEPT Mag (page 23), the project of F3nice has gained traction over time and has even raised the interest of Equinor Ventures that has signed a Letter of Intent with the Italian start-up. F3nice ambitions to live up to its name – whose pronunciation is similar to the Italian word for Phoenix, “Fenice” (the bird that obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor) – by sourcing metal scrap and disused parts and transforming them into metal 3D printable powder. In this Q&A series, we have asked Mondora 7 questions to help us understand how recyclable and 3D printable are metals.
3D ADEPT Media (3DA): What services does the company provide?
Mondora: F3nice sells high quality, sustainable metal AM feedstock, with a process that saves over 90% emissions compared to the standard process. To some end-users, F3nice offers the chance to recycle their own dead inventory, scrap metal, and acquire the metal feedstock made with it, in alignment with their sustainability mandate towards circular economy and lowering CO2 emissions.
3DA: According to you, what are the key steps of powder production lifecycle?
Mondora: I would say that the choice of the atomization technology is not taken enough into account when choosing the feedstock for an AM process. Let’s talk about standard materials, such as Stainless steels, Inconel alloys and others. Today on the market we see powder made with water atomization and IGA (inert gas atomization) marketed towards highly complex printing processes such as powder bed fusion. Given that the cost of the feedstock account only for a very limited fraction of the AM process cost, why settling for a lower quality powder (in morphology, rheology, and other characteristics) that may lead to lower properties on the printed artifact, when VIGA (vacuum inert gas atomization) feedstock yields such a superior quality? This is the reason why we chose VIGA as atomization technology for F3nice plant for those materials.
3DA: Are these steps necessarily the same when you use waste to produce powders?
Mondora: Sorting and preparation of the scrap metal is key to guarantee the high standard quality of the powder and the repeatability of the process! Given that the atomization technology choice is one of the most important choices we had to make when we designed our production plant. 3DA: Can we recycle all types of metal AM powders/waste/scrap? Mondora: With VIGA technology, we can work with all materials with exception of those that require a higher melting temperature, such as Titanium. For Ti Alloys (and other high value alloys, that require smaller batches) we are considering a second atomizer that allows plasma melting of the input metal.
3DA: Does the recycled powder have the same characteristics and properties than the original one?
Mondora: Yes! We did a test print for tensile and elongation specimens using F3nice powder on an EOS M290 Printer, using standard 316 printing parameters, and then we printed the same specimens with EOS own brand feedstock. University of Stavanger performed mechanical testing on both set of specimens and the results where aligned; the differences in the mechanical properties where within the error range of the testing machine!
3DA: Let’s take the example of the widely-used AM process: LPBF. Can we recover F3nice4S 3D printable powders in a given production and reuse it? (If possible, how many times?)
Mondora: F3nice powder is identical to any other high-quality powder produced with VIGA technology and can be re-used during the printing process just as many times (the number depends on the specific alloy). The added value is that, once the powder is deemed ‘exhausted’, the OEM can contact F3nice and ask for it to be recycled instead of having the hassle of disposing it (at high cost) as hazardous waste. F3nice can provide this service not only for its products but also for any powder.
3DA: We know F3nice believes in a more sustainable world and is striving to play its part in this critical mission, but how sustainable are your products/processes?
Mondora: Thanks to the use of 100% metal scrap as input material, a very positive energy mix (we are based in Norway where, according to electricitymap.org, over 95% of energy comes from renewable sources) and an efficient patented process for the scrap processing, we are able to achieve over 50% of energy saved and over 90% CO2 saved compared to the same product made in the rest of Europe (for example Germany) with a standard process.
3DA: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Mondora: We have just signed a 1-year contract with Equinor for the processing of their scrap, and the feedstock made with it will be used to print parts for the commissioning of Johan Castberg field, near Hammerfest, by Fieldmade – in a true Circular Economy Ecosystem!
This feature has first been published in the September/October edition of 3D ADEPT Mag. Remember, you can post job opportunities in the AM Industry on 3D ADEPT Media free of charge or look for a job via our job board. Make sure to follow us on our social networks and subscribe to our weekly newsletter : Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Instagram ! If you want to be featured in the next issue of our digital magazine or if you hear a story that needs to be heard, make sure to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org