Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito have awarded $1.5 million to 6K, the company behind the UniMelt microwave plasma platform that produces additive manufacturing (AM) powders unique. The grant will fund high-tech equipment to recycle waste used in the production of AM and batteries for electric vehicles, networked storage and consumer electronics.
Over the past few years, 6K has raised millions of dollars in funding, partnered with numerous companies to create AM powders, named high-profile members to its board of directors (including politician Joe Kennedy III ) and launched new installations. By all means, the company is growing at a steady pace, and the latest grant will push its mission even further.
Just a year ago, it unveiled its new 33,000 square foot battery materials production facility, one of the largest battery materials production facilities in the United States. Over the next few years, 6K is expected to invest $25 million in this center of excellence which will focus on the development of new sustainable battery materials for energy storage devices.
Determined to develop materials into products that will advance the manufacturing, renewable energy, aerospace and consumer electronics industries, the successful startup has raised a total of $94.9 million in funding on seven rounds, including a $51 million Series C investment led by venture capital firm Volta Energy Technologies.
State subsidies help businesses grow
Announced by Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy at an event at 6K’s new battery materials production facility, the new grant highlights the state’s strong supply chain. Mainly because it will fund the purchase of a new UniMelt system, which is designed by 6K, and will be manufactured by Helfrich Brothers Boiler Works in Lawrence with components from Middlesex-based industrial equipment supplier AVS.
The new UniMelt system will be used to produce metal powders, creating new opportunities to develop 6K’s future workforce in collaboration with local vocational schools, community colleges and universities. Originally designed as a production platform for sustainable materials, UniMelt’s patented technology is expected to enable the development of advanced materials in a wide range of markets, from 3D printing to lithium-ion batteries. The new unit will join others in the company’s latest facility, increasing production capacity.
6K’s cutting-edge UniMelt technology is described as “in essence from Massachusetts” in terms of innovative, sustainable and environmentally friendly features, which recycle waste or used metal powder or parts that would otherwise have gone to landfill, and transform them instead. premium metal powder used in 3D printing for production parts.
The $1.5 million grant comes from the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2) program, managed by the MassTech Collaborative’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. Aimed at fostering and developing sectors such as AM, the M2I2 program has invested more than $80 million in direct grants to growing companies, universities, and research labs across the state. Some of the previous recipients include Specialty Materials, a Lowell-based maker of boron fiber and silicon carbide products; Sheaumann Laser, a Marlborough company specializing in the design and manufacture of semiconductor laser modules; and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
As the latest recipient, 6K will “help unlock the potential of high-value metals and materials left unused in scrap inventory,” suggests MassTech Collaborative’s chief investment strategist, Ben Linville-Engler.
“Using emerging technologies such as additive manufacturing helps create an ecosystem where innovation and manufacturing can thrive. [6Ks] the products will positively impact industries ranging from metal 3D printing, semiconductors, battery storage and electrification, lasers and beyond, areas that play to Commonwealth strengths” , concluded Linville-Engler.
The grant comes as no surprise, given that Governor Baker had already named 6K an outstanding company during his testimony before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy in January 2022. At the time, Baker noted the “incredible and innovative work” 6K was doing in the battery supply chain.
With the announcement of the new grant, two words were strongly emphasized by state officials: jobs and infrastructure. In fact, through targeted M2I2 investments, the state plans to expand its manufacturing base, support innovations in sustainable energy technologies, and attract the multitude of students studying STEM careers (a number that, in Massachusetts, is one-third higher than the US average.)
Commenting on the latest grant, Polito said: “The Commonwealth has supported the growth of 6K through early investments made by MassDevelopment and we are continuing that support with this new advanced manufacturing grant from the M2I2 program. Massachusetts plays a vital role in technologies that advance our clean energy future, including electric cars. As Massachusetts students look forward to their careers in STEM fields, I hope they discover the groundbreaking innovations produced by companies like 6K.
US state leader in 3D printing
Additionally, the investment is expected to position Massachusetts as a leader in the clean production of these materials, installing a competitive alternative to traditional materials manufacturing methods, which take longer and produce more pollutants and waste (including including water). For example, the company says its UniMelt system makes the material in two to three seconds without hazardous waste, reducing water consumption six times and reducing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
Local government and politicians came out for the announcement, followed by a tour of 6K’s proprietary UniMelt state-of-the-art plasma production systems. State House Representatives Christina Minicucci, Tram Nguyen, and Jeffrey N. Roy were among the state officials present and indicated that they were “excited about the potential this grant unlocks.”
“The innovation that 6K offers represents the best in manufacturing and clean energy technology,” said Roy, who serves as the House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy and Chairman of the House of Manufacturing Caucus. “The Legislature continues to fund investments in this sector because it not only helps provide clean energy, but also ensures robust economic development. I was impressed with what I saw at 6K and am thrilled that this company has deep and strong roots in the Massachusetts ecosystem.
Likewise, State Senator Diana DiZoglio pointed out that 6K’s innovative technology has created much-needed jobs in the Merrimack Valley and bolstered efforts to reduce wastewater, greenhouse gas emissions and consumption. of energy. She promises that this investment will go a long way to supporting the scale and success of cutting-edge technology, positioning Massachusetts to lead the way in this emerging industry.
During the ceremony, it was clear that government officials were eager to see additional programs like M2I2 passed by state legislators. If that happens, they could offer fundamental support to other Massachusetts-based startups, including many AM companies that could follow in the footsteps of highly successful local predecessors, like Markforged and Formlabs. Massachusetts is one of the states leading the 3D printing revolution in the United States. With such a hotbed of universities and institutions; he has the potential to create, found and grow many companies that could lead the charge in AM innovation.
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