ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading steel company, has entered the additive manufacturing market as a steel powder supplier. The company is building an industrial-scale inert gas atomizer in Aviles, Spain, to produce steel powders for AM technologies such as laser powder bed fusion, binder jetting, and direct energy deposition.
The atomizer, which will start production in January 2024, will have a large batch-size production capability – from 200kg to 3 tonnes – and an initial annual capacity of 1000 tonnes. This will enable ArcelorMittal to supply significant volumes of steel powders with consistent quality, reliability, and traceability – meeting the high standards and specifications of the AM industry.
The atomizer will produce powders from scrap steel, using renewable electricity – atomizing with industrial gases produced by renewable energy, and using recycled and recyclable packaging solutions.
A new business unit, ArcelorMittal Powders, has been established to commercialize the output of the atomizer. The steel powders will be offered in size ranges suitable for all existing powder-based metal AM technologies in aerospace, defense, automotive, medical, and energy industries. They can also be used in the latest technological developments such as the brake disc coatings being developed to help Automotive OEMs and Tier Ones comply with the EU7 regulation on particle emissions. A layer of powder deposited on the brake disc provides wear and corrosion resistance which significantly reduces the particulate emissions of braking.
“We are proud to launch ArcelorMittal Powders, a new business unit that reflects our vision to be at the forefront of innovation and sustainability in the steel industry. By producing and supplying steel powders for additive manufacturing, we are expanding our portfolio of advanced materials and solutions for the future of manufacturing. We believe that steel has great potential to become the material of choice for additive manufacturing, thanks to its versatility, performance, and sustainability,” said Gregory Ludkovsky, Chief Executive Officer of Global Research and Development at ArcelorMittal. “The additive manufacturing industry has grown phenomenally over the past decade and is expected to continue to grow in double digits over the next 10 years. While the production of steel powders is a new venture for ArcelorMittal, we are confident that our metallurgical expertise and solutions-based approach will provide our customers with the support they need to improve the quality and reliability of their additive manufacturing projects.”
“Additive manufacturing is an area we have been investing in and building our capabilities for several years, and we are now ready to scale up our production and offer our customers and partners a reliable and competitive source of high-quality steel powders,” said Colin Hautz, CEO of ArcelorMittal Powders. “From our facility in Spain, we will offer a range of steel powders tailored to our customers’ needs. A technology as innovative and disruptive as additive manufacturing not only allows us to think about changes in the design and manufacturing process of many parts and components we use today, but also exploit one of the inherently sustainable characteristics of steel – its recyclability.”
Marketed under the AdamIQ brand name, ArcelorMittal’s product portfolio will include stainless steels (316L, 430L, 17-4PH), tool steels (H11, H13, M300) and low alloy steels (a dual-phase alloy; 4140 equivalent). Drawing on its metallurgical expertise, ArcelorMittal’s research and development team dedicated to AM technologies and steel powder production intends to add further steel powder products for customers to test in 2024.
The company is now looking to scale up its participation in the AM market and, mirroring its successful approach with its S-in motion program in the automotive sector, intends to scale its steel powders offering in collaboration with customers and industrial partners, through co-design and co-engineering projects.
ArcelorMittal has been producing steel powders in a pilot atomizer at its AM lab in Aviles since 2018. With its dedicated research and development facilities and over 50 full-time researchers, ArcelorMittal has developed a detailed understanding of the interactions between steel alloy design, atomization parameters, AM process parameters, and the final properties of the printed parts.
Through its AM and Digital Research Centre, ArcelorMittal has already collaborated with customers and partners on various projects, such as the development of a generative design steel motorbike chassis, the optimization of AM productivity through software algorithms, and, with a JV partner, the production of over 10 tonnes of 1,600 different spare parts per year, for its own steel plants.
Two factors helped ArcelorMittal decide that now is an appropriate time to enter the steel powders market. Firstly, the belief that additive manufacturing, while still at an embryonic phase, offers exciting growth potential, and there are significant benefits to gain from being an early participant able to foster the direction of growth. Secondly, feedback from industrial customers was that variations in batch-to-batch quality is a significant issue that is impacting production reliability and repeatability and is thereby impeding the broader uptake of AM in larger production runs. This, plus the trend to ever-larger AM machines, prompted the decision to build an atomizer with a large batch size.