Low cost route for hi-tech metal parts

Metalysis's headquarters at Wath-upon-Dearne
Metalysis's headquarters at Wath-upon-Dearne
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A pioneering South Yorkshire innovator has joined forces with Sheffield University to achieve a double first in metals manufacturing.

Rotherham-based Metalysis and the University’s Department of Materials have combined to make aerospace and automotive parts from titanium, using a 3D printer.

Wath-upon-Dearne-based Metalysis was set up to commercialise a process developed to replace the highly inefficient, slow and chemically hazardous processes used for the last 70 years to produce pure titanium and other metals such as tantalum.

Metalysis has been working on a pioneering semi-continuous plant to produce titanium powders for worldwide markets at 25 per cent of the metal’s current cost.

Now, scientists from the Department of Materials have used Metalysis’s powder in a 3D printer, made by the Renishaw group.

Sheffield University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett said: “We are delighted that this innovative work is being undertaken in the University of Sheffield’s world-leading Faculty of Engineering.

“Most people associate 3D printing with plastic parts, but, with Metalysis’ titanium powder, we have for the first time demonstrated its potential in the manufacturing of metal parts. This is potentially a significant breakthrough for the many sectors which can benefit from its low-cost production. We look forward to continue working with Metalysis as they develop this ground-breaking technology.”

Professor Iain Todd, director of the university’s Mercury Centre, where the research was carried out, says there are significant challenges involved in taking emerging technologies like metallic 3D printing from the lab to production.

One of those challenges was the cost of the materials – something which Metalysis’s technology seeks to overcome.

“The step-change in terms of process economics that this material breakthrough provides takes us ever closer to the time when 3D printing of metals such as titanium is considered the norm rather than exceptional,” added Prof Todd.