Head Office: +44 (0)1709 872 111

Metal Powders

Metalysis is positioned at the intersection of two powerful fundamental trends that will reshape industrial manufacturing: powder metallurgy and additive manufacturing.

Powder Metallurgy

  • Traditionally a (high-value) niche market – powders are only a fraction of total metals consumption
  • Conventional powder production processes are complex and expensive
  • Solid-phase metallurgy provides highly attractive near-term opportunities
  • Low-cost metal powders will drive the mainstream adoption of new materials (e.g. Ti substitution of Fe, Al)

The Metalysis process has the advantage that the final product is in powder form. Advantages offered by producing metal powder directly include the ability to tailor the powder size, purity, morphology and the alloying elements.  Interest in such powdered alloys has accelerated in recent years due to the development of additive layer manufacturing - 3D printing.

Metalysis has proven that its electrolytic process can also transform natural rutile sands directly into titanium metal powder in a single step, which could be even more disruptive.  Rutile is a naturally occurring titanium ore present in beach sands and is a highly cost effective feed stock for metal powder production.  Metalysis developed the process itself and has patented it.

Additive Layer Manufacturing – ALM = 3D Printing

  • Low-cost metal powders are the key enablers for ALM
  • ALM will transform industrial production – long-term process
  • Supply chains for additive manufacturing materials are in flux – susceptible to technological disruption by innovators

Powdered metals are used in net shape manufacturing where the part produced is close to the final shape and needs little extra milling or grinding.  It is being taken up first in the aerospace industry where the buy-to-fly ratio (the weight of the material used to make the component and the weight of the component made) is critical. In the case of major aircraft manufacturers, for example, the buy to fly ratio is typically 9 to 1 (10kg of titanium material is used to manufacture a 1kg component).  The introduction of new additive (rather than subtractive) metal forming processes is becoming increasingly adopted as a result. The advantage Metalysis has over other companies is that it can select the feedstock to tailor the product towards a given technique, and can make a powder from an alloy or hybrid, not just titanium.

  • The market for Additive Manufacturing, still at an early stage of its development, is poised for explosive growth. Industry observers expect the total market (including equipment, materials and services) to increase seven-fold to reach ca. USD 21bn in 2020.*
  • The use of metals in ALM is becoming increasingly widespread. Growth in the deployment of industrial 3D printing units for metal accelerated by 76% in 2013.*
    The total market for ALM materials in 2013 was estimated at ca. USD 530 mn (ca. 17% of the total ALM market), which is indicative of the nascent character of this market (small components, small production runs).*
    At present, metals account for only a small proportion of 3D printing activity due to the high price of both equipment and metal. ALM powder prices range from USD 80-120/kg (Fe) to USD 340-880/kg (Ti).*

By materially reducing the cost of metal powders, in particular Ti, Metalysis may become the key enabler for metal ALM.

Another significant issue in ALM for metals is the gradual degradation of metal powders during processing as a result of the powder bed being exposed to oxygen and other contaminants. There is large potential demand for cost-effective methods of reconditioning metal powders. Metalysis’ technology is particularly suited to remove surface oxidised coatings.

Metalysis is actively engaged in co-development with major industrial users and equipment suppliers 

The breakthrough, solid-state technology can create alloys that are difficult to manufacture by traditional methods.

*Source: Wohler Associates, Univ. of Nottingham (2014)