UK Ministry of Defence announces disruptive titanium technology, Metalysis increases funding

Metal 3D printing received a boost this week with two
announcements from the UK.

Titanium’s high strength, lightweight and resistance to
corrosion make the metal a desirable choice for applications in
aerospace, defence and healthcare. However, the cost of
titanium makes it prohibitively expensive for wider use.

The
FAST-forge initiative
, funded by
Innovate UK, aims to develop a process to make titanium
c
heaper and abundant. In turn this will allow the
development of lower cost 3D printing materials.

Safran's Landing gear which will test the application of FAST-forge titanium. Photo via Safran Group.Safran’s Landing gear
which will test the application of FAST-forge titanium. Photo via
Safran Group.

A “ground-breaking method”

Earlier this week the
UK’s Defence Secretary Gavin
Williamson
gave further details about the
project, “Our Armed Forces use titanium in everything from
cutting-edge nuclear submarines and fighter jets through to
life-changing replacement limbs – but production time and costs
mean we haven’t always used it.”

Describing the FAST-forge process as a “ground-breaking
method” Williamson added,  

[FAST-forge] is not only faster and cheaper but could
see a huge expansion of titanium parts and equipment
throughout the military. It is a clear example of how our
world-class scientists are working behind the scenes to help
our Armed Forces as well as bringing prosperity and security
to Britain.

Dr Nick Weston from the Department of
Materials Science & Engineering at the
University of
Sheffield
is one of the leaders in developing
the technology
said, “FAST-forge is a disruptive
technology that enables near net shape components to be
produced from powder or particulate in two simple processing
steps.”

Such components have mechanical properties equivalent
to forged product. For titanium alloys, FAST-forge will
provide a step change in the cost of components, allowing use
in automotive applications in automotive applications such as
powertrain and suspension systems.

The research is also funded with £30,000 from
the
Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

(Dstl) in Porton Down, UK. Matthew Lunt the
Principal Scientist for Materials Science at Dstl said, “We’re
really excited about this innovation, which could cut the
production cost of titanium parts by up to 50%. With this
reduction in cost, we could use titanium in submarines, where
corrosion resistance would extend the life, or for light-weight
requirements like armoured vehicles.”

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) in Porton Down has revolutionised the production of titanium by reducing the 40 stage process down to just two steps and potentially halving the cost. Crown copyright.The Defence Science and
Technology Laboratory (Dstl) in Porton Down has revolutionised
the production of titanium by reducing the 40 stage process down
to just two steps and potentially halving the cost. Crown
copyright.

Metalysis receives $17 million to advance 3D
printable metal alloy powders

Metalysis,
headquartered in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, is also involved
in the FAST-forge project. As previously reported, Metalysis is
developing the
Fray, Farthing, Chen (FFC)
Cambridge process, a method that allows the production of metal
alloys from lower priced inputs.

Opening the Metalysis Materials Discovery Center. Photo by Beau JacksonOpening the Metalysis Materials Discovery Center. Photo by Beau JacksonOpening the Metalysis
Materials Discovery Center. Photo by Beau Jackson

Specifically, the FFC process used by Metalysis takes a
solid feedstock and can produce a solid product without melting
the feedstock. The company believes that the FFC method has
application for between 30-40 elements in the periodic table,
plus the resulting alloys that can be derived from them.

The FFC method will allow the production of

spherical metal powder for metal 3D printing using inputs
that cost $2.50/kg rather than the current
$70
.

This week Metalysis announced further funding of £12m
($17m) to move forward to commercial production under the
Generation 4 (“Gen4”) scale expansion project. The funding
comes from existing shareholders
Woodford Investment
Management,
Draper Esprit PLC, ETF Partners
and Interogo Treasury.
Hercules
Capital
, Inc. (NYSE: HTGC), of California,
U.S. are a new investor in Metalysis.

A Metalysis spokesperson gave 3D Printing Industry more
details of when commercial production is expected to commence,
“We are carrying out ‘first runs’ over the coming weeks,
targeting commercial production within the next couple of
reporting quarters.”

Much of the the project remains underwraps and details of
additive manufacturing partners using metal powders made using
the solid-state process remain “commercially sensitive” with
limited details available. However, the Metalysis spokesperson
explained the project is progressing very well. “Having built
Generation 4, there are no real challenges left associated with
the technology – we have achieved industrial scale.”

In terms of future expansion, challenges will involve
assembling the ideal structure of large project funding, for
which we have lots of options, and the normal execution risk
associated with such projects of that magnitude. Obviously,
we are confident in the progress we continue to make in those
respects.

Speaking about the news, Dion Vaughan, CEO of Metalysis,
said, “Naturally, we are pleased that Metalysis has attracted
financial backing from both new and existing sophisticated
institutional investors.”

The expansion project carried out during the past year,
combined with these proceeds, will support our multi-metal
production and commercial rollout. Metalysis is a high growth
U.K. technology business with advanced materials
breakthroughs and solid-state production of great value to
its customers, shareholders, partners, and employees.

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Featured image shows an example 3D printed titanium
lattices. Photo via: Metalysis/TWI

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