Rio Tinto has signed an agreement to provide a first commercial batch of high performance aluminium-scandium alloy from its North American operations to Amaero, a leader in metal additive manufacturing.
This first sale is being delivered through Rio Tinto’s unique position as a producer of both aluminium and scandium, and its technical capability to develop specialised alloys.
Under the agreement, Rio Tinto will deliver alloy billets made of responsibly produced, low carbon aluminium from its hydro-powered Canadian smelters and high purity scandium oxide from its Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec. The billets will be processed by Amaero into powder for 3D printing and offered to the market for high temperature applications.
The scandium oxide will be supplied from a new plant Rio Tinto is building in Sorel -Tracy, Quebec, bringing the first North American supply source to the world. The plant will use an innovative recovery process developed by Rio Tinto scientists to extract high purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining.
The companies will also collaborate to develop the supply chain for Amaero’s high performance, High Operating Temperature Aluminium Alloy, “Amaero HOT Al”, and commercialise this lightweight material for applications in the aerospace, defence and other industries.
Rio Tinto Aluminium vice president Sales and Marketing Tolga Egrilmezer said: “As a global leader in aluminium and the first producer of high-quality scandium oxide in North America, Rio Tinto is uniquely positioned to provide a secure source of aluminium-scandium alloy to the market. Aluminium-scandium alloy is the material of choice where a lightweight, high-strength material with thermal resistance and good welding properties is needed, such as for defence and aerospace applications. This first sale demonstrates our ability to develop products that meet our customers’ needs, drawing on our technical expertise and world class assets.”
Amaero chief executive officer Barrie Finnin said: “We are very pleased to enter this Agreement with Rio Tinto to purchase the first commercial batch of aluminium scandium alloy from a North American source. This is an important step in the commercialisation of this high performance alloy that will be used in our breakthrough 3D metal printing technology. We look forward to working with Rio Tinto to progress the production of the alloy so we can commence the qualification process with key customers in the aerospace sector and other industries.”