Metalysis has a commercially proven electrolytic technology which can reduce metal oxides and ores into pure metals and alloys
Our process operates at lower temperature and lower energy consumption than traditional melting technologies because reduction takes place in the solid-state. It requires inexpensive components and generates no toxic by-products. Pre-alloyed or ore feedstock may be used directly because it is a ‘powder in, powder out’ process, too.
Metals are constrained by their melting points and densities. In conventional melting technology, this renders some compositions obsolete; but Metalysis’ process is able to generate metal powders, in-demand alloy powders and completely new alloys, in some cases historically considered impossible.
Our process also requires less ‘steps’ than the best known solid-state processing alternative, adding to our ability to produce quickly, cost competitively and to minimise environmental impact.
Metalysis’ solid-state process can produce many periodic table metals and commercially attractive known alloys. It also provides the opportunity to produce for a vast number of new alloys previously considered too difficult to create, or too costly, in spite of their potentially revolutionary applications. This includes high entropy alloys, which are a particular area of commercial R&D focus for the company and may be produced according to market demand.
The metals production for which Metalysis is best known is titanium; one of the metal powders we produce, suitable for 3D printing.
Titanium presents excellent physical properties for use in 3D printing due to a range of characteristics including flow, packing density, particle diameter and associated narrow size distribution.
Metalysis can tailor the mean particle diameter and corresponding size distribution of titanium powders towards a given 3D printing process, i.e. selective laser melting (SLM), electron beam melting (EBM), direct metal deposition (DMD).
Metalysis’ Ti-6Al-4V spherical powder
Metalysis’ titanium powders have been used to fabricate a number of 3D printed parts, such as automotive turbocharger components and aerospace turbine guide vanes. This represents a paradigm shift in the availability of consumables for the 3D printing of metal components.
Titanium is favoured for additive manufacturing for a range of reasons, including its corrosion resistance and high strength-to-weight ratio.
Typically, rutile and ilmenite are mined for titanium dioxide production, from which titanium is then extracted in a non-powder form using the Kroll process. The Kroll process is comparatively expensive and requires more production ‘steps’ than Metalysis’ process. Historically, titanium’s high price and constrained availability has limited its use, in spite of its excellent properties.
Metalysis can tailor titanium powder size, purity, morphology and its alloying elements. We have produced various sizes down to below 100 μm. The flexibility of product form allows our team to target a range of advanced powder metallurgy manufacturing methods that reduce material wastage.
Metalysis’ process can also produce titanium alloys in the solid state that would be highly complex and expensive to manufacture by conventional melting techniques. This provides two significant opportunities:
The process can produce master alloys or pre-alloyed feed for conventional ingot producers.
Metalysis can develop novel alloys with improved performance that will expand the current market for titanium products.
Metalysis works with a range of commercial partners and participates in many research projects to test the suitability of titanium powders for high-end additive manufacturing applications.
Metalysis’ process can produce many more periodic table metals and novel alloys, including but not limited to high entropy alloys, graphene, and rare earth metals including scandium and niobium.
The company’s commercial research and development division partners with a wide range of corporate, academic, state-funded and other entities to deliver metal and alloy powders for projects including additive manufacturing in aerospace, automotive, magnets, nano-technology and battery technologies.
Metalysis’ story began in 1997 at the Materials Science and Metallurgy Department, University of Cambridge, UK.
While researching the use of electrolysis in titanium purification, the lightbulb moment occurred for a team led by Professor Derek Fray FRS FREng.
Fray’s team discovered a new way to reduce pure titanium oxide and many other oxides to their respective metals. Subsequent tests proved the discovery and results were published in September 2000 (Nature 361-364 2000).
Named after its founders, the discovery became known as the “FFC” process; the ‘ecosystem’ supporting the company’s broader proprietary technology.
By 2005, Metalysis had moved to South Yorkshire and the commercial journey began.
The FFC Cambridge Process offers exciting opportunities for synthesising unique metal alloy powders from oxides for near net shape processing and metal additive manufacturing; areas which Metalysis is very well positioned to exploit.
Professor Derek Fray