Retech, a U.S.-based subsidiary of SECO/WARWICK Group, established a cooperation with GeniCore, a Poland-based composite materials engineering company. Thanks to the cooperation, Retech will expand its offering in powder-metal processes with spark plasma sintering (SPS). The SPS process bonds materials using a combination of pressure and thermal energy applied to materials in a mold. It resembles hot pressing, but the SPS process consumes far less energy and, more importantly, can bond a broader range of materials into novel composites unachievable by other processes, according to GeniCore and Retech.

The “spark” in spark plasma sintering is more of a powerful pulse of electric current that passes directly through the material in the mold form while it is under pressure. To withstand the heat and pressure, the molds are made of graphite, which is machined into a negative shape. As the material is compressed in the mold while under vacuum, a pulse of direct current is passed through the material, producing the high temperatures necessary for sinter bonding to occur. The current pulse heats the material via Joule heating rather than radiant, applying the heat only where needed. As a result, SPS uses less energy than traditional hot pressing or sintering methods, according to GeniCore and Retech.

GeniCore has developed multiple SPS systems called U-FAST (upgraded field-assisted sintering technology), and each one is optimized for specific applications. Many SPS applications are already employed in manufacturing, and the broad spectrum of SPS capabilities and applications are still being researched and discovered. Cooperation with Retech gives GeniCore the ability to serve customers in the North American market.