Metals, in general, are very recyclable materials. Exactly how recyclable are they? Can they be recycled well enough that they can be re-used to produce critical parts in complex processes such as metal laser powder bed fusion? F3nice, a startup based in Milan, thinks so and plans on building a sustainable business around this idea. With help from Aidro, an experienced metal AM parts manufacturer for the hydraulics and aerospace segments, they have set out to demonstrate the feasibility of this concept.
To be clear, we are not talking about re-using unmelted atomized powder but about atomizing new powder from used metallic cast parts. F3nice is sourcing scrap metal—316L stainless steel to be precise—from used obsolete valves and components provided by partner Flux Valvision.
From scrap to parts
This material will be made into powder and then used to produce 3D printed components, to be eventually used for Energy, Oil and Gas. In order to test the properties of the recycled 316L powder, f3nice turned to the experts at Aidro, which produced a set of test parts, reportedly using its EOS L-PBF systems.
The test components will be cut from the plate and sent to the University of Stavanger and UC Irvine for full mechanical, chemical and corrosion characterization.
This process is necessary to demonstrate to any prospective customer that metal powder made from recycled metal is just as performing as standard metal powder.
F3nice, whose name is inspired by the Italian word for Phoenix, “Fenice” (a mystical bird that is reborn from its own ashes) is targeting AM adopters who need to lower their carbon footprint. The basic idea is to fully shift AM from linear economy, with new resources are continuously extracted, to a circular economy, sustainable approach, inspired by nature. This is particularly fitting for AM, a technology that enables the production of complex shapes inspired by natural, optimized forms such as fractals and lattices.
In addition, the idea of sustainability brought forth by the team at f3nice—and several other AM operators who are focusing on sustainable practices— is composed of three pillars: environmental (planet), social (people), and economic (profits) aspects.
According to the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, “In order to be sustainable, a business model shall produce positive social and environmental outcomes alongside financial returns.” By rethinking the traditional industrial production cycles, f3nice helps by introducing enabling technologies and by proposing smart ways to confer additional value to waste products.