Feb 17, 2016 | By Benedict
Metalysis, a UK-based manufacturer of metal powders for 3D printing, has secured a £20m ($28.5m) investment from British businessman Neil Woodford and Australian zircon producer Iluka Resources.
When Neil Woodford invests in your company, it’s generally a sign that you’re on the right track. The businessman, who holds a degree in economics from the University of Exeter, is one of the most well-respected fund managers in the UK, and last year launched the Woodford Patient Capital Trust. Today’s announcement sees the financial expert investing in metal 3D printing company Metalysis through that recently established trust. Investment has also been made by Iluka Resources, resulting in a double boost that will help Metalysis expand its production of metal powders.
Why Metalysis? The company, based in South Yorkshire, UK, produces titanium powder for use in metal 3D printing, and claims to use 50% less energy than conventional titanium powder processes. Titanium produced using the established “Kroll” method is energy-intensive and consequently expensive—often prohibitively so. Metalysis, however, uses the “FFC” process, named after Derek Fray, Tom Farthing, and George Chen, who discovered it at the University of Cambridge in 1997. The technique uses electricity to reduce metal oxide to metal in a molten salt in one step.
Titanium is favored by aerospace and automotive manufacturers due to its strength and lightness, and can be used in SLM, DMLS, and other 3D printing processes. It is thought that 3D printed titanium components could prove more cost-effective than titanium components manufactured using other methods, and it is this speculation that has led Woodford and Iluka Resources to invest in Metalsys. Norsk Titanium, a Norwegian manufacturer, says it will be producing 3D printed titanium aerospace components by the second half of 2016, and other companies could soon follow its lead.
The material can also be used in other industries such as healthcare. Metalysis has previously worked with TWI, another British firm, to produce 3D printed hip implants made from its tantalum powder. 3D printed orthopedic hip implants can be tailor-made to a patient’s individual anatomy with the use of 3D scanning technology, resulting in a more comfortable and effective implant.
Iluka Resources, which has also made new investment in Metalsys alongside Woodford, operates in mineral sands exploration, project development, and other fields. It is a major producer of rutile and synthetic rutile, and the world’s largest producer of zircon, an opacifier commonly used in the ceramics industry. The company’s new investment in Metalysis will give it a 28.8% stake in the company.
“The prospects of commercial volumes of titanium metal powder, direct from rutile and synthetic rutile, at a materially lower cost than current technologies, could drive a dramatic expansion in global demand for titanium metal and titanium alloys,” David Robb, managing director of Iluka Resources told Financial Times.
The double investment indicates a growing domestic and international interest in the British 3D printing industry, at which Metalysis could soon be at the forefront.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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