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    Ampal has received a grant to develop a high-strength aluminum alloy. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO

Published August 31. 2018 10:49PM

A Palmerton-based company has been approved for funding from a business incubator aiming to help support regional economic development.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s board of directors announced that U.S. Metal Powders/Ampal will receive $10,000 as part of a larger initiative distributing $535,000 to Pennsylvania businesses.

U.S. Metal Powders/Ampal will work with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center and use the funding to help develop a specialized metallic powder for 3-D printing.

“We will be using this funding to create a 3-D printable wrought alloy,” Jessu Joys, Vice President/Global Technical Director at U.S. Metal Powders, said. “There is a great need for aluminum alloy powders for 3-D printing applications.”

Joys said that aluminum has good corrosion resistance, and it can be useful in numerous markets, including the medical and aerospace fields.

“Aluminum has a lot of advantages. It is a lightweight alloy, and it is environmentally friendly. The only disadvantage is that some of the aluminum is not as strong as other materials. What we are trying to do is come up with a high-strength alloy that is 3-D printable, based on the 6061 aluminum alloy powder.”

The 6061 aluminum alloy powder is the most common formulation.

It is created through a process called atomization, which entails melting a larger metallic cube and spraying the liquid through a very small, restrictive nozzle. The metal naturally solidifies in very small spheres, creating the powder.

With the help of Lehigh University and their Renishaw 3-D printer, the U.S. Metal Powders/Ampal team hopes to formulate a 6061 aluminum alloy powder that is ideal for 3-D printing applications.

Advances in 3-D printing technology could help reduce overall costs and increase the capabilities of the machines for manufacturers, and a new 6061 aluminum alloy powder could be a groundbreaking first step in the mission.

If $10,000 sounds a little low for such an involved project, even modest success could spur further investments. Pennsylvania Ben Franklin Technology Partners boasts that since 2007, grant recipients have generated $1.5 billion in follow-on funding.

This could also result in increased production capabilities in the area, and more job opportunities.

“The $10,000 is the very first step. Depending upon the success of our project, we can continue and go on,” Joys said. “This will definitely increase the business.”

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