Amid all the partners of GE Additive’s Beta Partner Program, Kennametal is certainly the one that we will watch out closely. In case you are not aware of it, in 2017, machine manufacturer GE Additive announced it has been developing a metal binder jetting platform that would enable to achieve high volume, low-cost additive production. A Binder Jet beta partner program had been launched to enable various partners to bring their contribution to the growth of the manufacturer’s Binder Jet Technology. Current partners already include Cummins, Wabtec, and Sandvik. Although they have their respective activities in the AM industry, each of these partners seems to be targeting a specific vertical: Cummins for power generation and automotive, Wabtec for rail, and Sandvik, possibly for mining.
As the latest addition to this program, industrial technology company Kennametal Inc. will make no exception to this rule.
Acknowledged for its expertise in materials science, tooling and wear-resistant solutions, the company will focus here on the development of cemented tungsten carbide materials. These hard metals are known for the high hardness, hot hardness and wear resistance integrated in the tungsten carbide and the toughness ensured by the binder metal. This powder metallurgy material pioneers a wide range of applications via conventional manufacturing processes, but its use via AM processes is very limited. A lot of projects surrounding the use of this material for AM technologies are currently being conducted at the research level. On the current market, materials company Sandvik is one of the companies that has recently developed 3D printed cemented carbide ready for commercialization.
That being said, Kennametal has been producing 3D printed cemented tungsten carbide components for some time now and thousands of those parts are in use by customers right now. The company currently offers two grades of cemented tungsten carbide to meet customer needs: KAC89 which is a 17% carbide grade for wear applications and KAR85, which is a 13% corrosion resistant cemented tungsten carbide grade.
Kennametal’s tungsten carbide and Stellite™ (cobalt chrome alloy) alloys are recognized for their superior wear, heat and corrosion performance. As part of this partner program, the company will focus on optimizing these high-performance, wear- and corrosion-resistant material families to additive platforms in order to deliver fully finished components with complex designs, shorter lead times and improved performance not possible through traditional manufacturing.
When combined with additive manufacturing, these proprietary material systems can offer a step change in wear and corrosion solutions for some of the most challenging applications, a press release says.
“Customers are increasingly seeking our 3D-printed tungsten carbide and Stellite solutions to help them maximize their productivity in challenging applications when wear and corrosion resistance are critical,” said Jay Verellen, general manager, Kennametal Additive Manufacturing. “Our work with GE Additive on Binder Jet solutions will enable further scaling of our operations to meet strong customer demand—and extend our leadership in proprietary material solutions for additive.”
Initially announced for 2021, GE Additive has yet to bring its H3 binder jetting system to market. The only reason we can see is that the company continues to work directly with customers to develop a solution that will meet both its vision and the market needs.
“By hands-on, we don’t mean tinkering or experimenting. We work closely with our beta customers as they develop their own, real-world business cases, applications and parts. To them, it is important that our solution is not only mature and scalable but is capable, complete and aligns to their product innovation strategies and meets production volume needs,” said Brian Birkmeyer, product line leader for Binder Jet at GE Additive.
Hopefully, the industrial 3D printer will be commercially ready by the end of 2022 and will complete the very select market of binder jetting machines.
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