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Rio Tinto develops new water atomized steel powder for AM

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Rio Tinto has successfully developed and tested a new water atomized steel powder designed for 3D printing applications at its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.

The water atomized steel powder delivers mechanical properties superior to conventional metal manufacturing techniques, paving the way for advances in the use of 3D printing technology for metal parts. RTFT is developing a range of additional powder grades with advanced properties for 3D printing to meet customer needs.

Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium Managing Director Stéphane Leblanc commented: “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. Our new additive manufacturing steel powder grade, produced with the largest water atomizer in North America, brings a very competitive raw material addition to the growing 3D market.”

Rio Tinto develops new water atomized steel powder for 3D printing

Rio Tinto’s Critical Minerals and Technology Centre in Sorel-Tracy partnered with Germany-based KSB SE & Co. KGaA, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of pumps and valves and a pioneer in industrial additive manufacturing, to develop and test the performance of the new powder in 3-D printing applications. Full-scale industrial parts have already been produced and tested, including parts for a liquid iron casting equipment at Rio Tinto’s Sorel-Tracy site which is an industry first.

RTFT operates an open cast 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, Quebec. 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. In the last decade, RTFT has focused on developing, marketing and fine-tuning the UGS process, which produces slag with a very high titanium dioxide content sold to pigment producers.

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

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