Wednesday, April 29, 2015

News: Metalysis scales up tantalum production

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Metalysis has completed a series of successful commercial production runs of tantalum powder at its production plant in Rotherham, the first new primary tantalum metal production plant in Europe for more than 30 years.

Metalysis holds the worldwide exploitation rights to the FCC Cambridge process which sees specialist powder metals created in a simple, cost effective process with significant environmental benefits.

The Manvers company is in the process of commercialising the technology to produce titanium, tantalum, and related high value alloys. These are used increasingly by major worldwide industries such as aerospace, marine, medical, chemical, automotive and electronics.

The electro-chemical process has been developed through years of R&D to the point where it is now ready for industrial production of tantalum, a high-value niche metal.

Using its technology, Metalysis has produced, at commercial scale, tantalum powders directly from metal oxide using its one-step electrolysis technology. It has been producing significant amounts of tantalum powder to fulfil customer orders during Q4 of 2014 and Q1 of 2015.

Metalysis takes the tantalum oxide feedstock and transforms it directly into tantalum powder using electrolysis. The process uses less energy than traditional processes as it does not require the melting of metals, and the salt used in producing the metals can be recycled.

The metal powder produced directly in this one step process has a high surface area and is nodular; both functional properties necessary for electronic components, for example capacitors, found in items such as smart phones, laptops and pace makers. The tantalum metal can also be used as an alloying element for current and next generation super alloys, which are used extensively in jet engines.

The small industrial plant has now completed more than 30 commercial scale production runs producing significant amounts of tantalum powder. The plant has been running continuously to fulfil the orders from its global clients, who operate in the electronics, aerospace and biomedical sectors. This is a significant step forward for tantalum because it is the first new primary tantalum metal production plant in Europe for more than 30 years.

The company is also studying methods of creating a spherical grade of powder that has applications in 3D printing. Being an expensive metal, the use of powders for 3D printing could offer customers in the petrochemicals, processing and biomedical industries both cost savings and better functionality versus traditionally machined parts. Metalysis will be bringing its previous knowledge and experience in its production of titanium powder production for additive layer manufacturing to support this development.

Dion Vaughan, CEO of Metalysis, said: "With the successful commercial production of significant quantities of tantalum, Metalysis is expediting the widespread use of high performance metals in a range of industries including 3D printing. The commercial production of tantalum powder at our new plant demonstrates that the Metalysis technology is scalable and mature. We are now looking forward to expanding its application across the periodic table into new metals and markets."

Metalysis website

Images: Metalysis

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