Monday, March 20, 2017

News: Metalysis partnership to develop 3D printed permanent magnets

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Pioneering Rotherham firm, Metalysis, could drive forward its business and solve a potential crisis in the electric vehicle industry with a new R&D partnership focused on 3D printed permanent magnets.

Metalysis has formed a partnership with Mkango Resources Ltd, a Canadian listed mineral exploration and development company, to jointly research, develop and commercialise novel rare earth metal alloys for use in 3D printed permanent magnets.

The Manvers company 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. It 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.

Backed by investors and grants, the Cambridge University spin out secured £20m of investment last year and opens a process facility later this month in a 22,000 sq ft unit on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham. It is also planning to scale up production of titanium at its Farfield Park premises.

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An MOU has been signed with Mkango, which is focused on mining rare earth elements (REE) and associated minerals in the Republic of Malawi, and the parties envisage a comprehensive research and development programme, culminating in the joint pursuit of commercial opportunities. One such opportunity includes evaluating the UK as a future host country for a manufacturing plant to exploit a commercialised technology.

Rare earth permanent magnets are a critical component of many electric vehicles, as well as other consumer and green technologies, but they are at risk of shortage. China dominates the rare earth permanent magnet industry, and this is one of a few rare earths projects outside China to have advanced beyond the pre-feasibility stage.

Key applications for permanent magnets include industrial motors, hard disc drives and automotive applications. Emerging and growing markets for permanent magnets are expected to be hybrid and electric vehicles and wind turbines.

William Dawes, chief executive officer of Mkango, said: "We are very pleased to collaborate with Metalysis. It is a core part of Mkango's strategy to be at the forefront of research and technology in every step of the rare earths supply chain; positioning the company as a future low cost, sustainable supplier of rare earths used in electric vehicles and other green technologies, which have entered a new phase of accelerating demand growth. The R&D programme will seek to enhance marketing flexibility, increase future margins and affirm the company's competitive positioning."

Neil Woodford, one of the most respected fund managers in the UK, invested £10m in Metalysis last year. Other investors include Australian minerals firm, Iluka Resources Limited.

The process being commercialised by Metalysis uses electrochemical reduction to transform metal oxides, such as ores, directly into metal powders in a single step. It is working on major development projects with GKN and VW.

Metalysis website

Images: Metalysis


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