Monday, February 24, 2014

News: Metalysis secures £12m investment from Iluka Resources


Australian minerals firm, Iluka Resources Limited, has agreed to invest £12.2m in Metalysis, the Rotherham-based innovator that is commercialising a low-cost way to manufacture titanium and other specialist powder metals.

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.

Iluka is involved in mineral sands exploration, project development, operations and marketing. At production bases in Australia and America, it is a major producer of zircon globally, and a significant producer of the high-grade titanium dioxide products of rutile and synthetic rutile.

Manvers-based Metalysis has demonstrated that it is able to produce titanium powder directly from Iluka's rutile products. Rutile is a mineral composed primarily of titanium dioxide.

The investor and grant backed Cambridge University spin out has developed the electrochemical reduction process to transform metal oxides, such as ores, directly into metal powders in a single step. Currently focusing on titanium and tantalum, 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 process also means that innovative alloys can be tailored to have the desired properties for specific applications and the creation of cheaper metal powders is also expected to drive forward the adoption of 3D printing in specialist metal products.

Iluka's investment sees them take an 18.3% interest in Metalysis (rising to a possible 24.9%), making them the largest shareholder. The production of titanium by the new method is likely to increase with new supply arrangements agreed between the two companies. Iluka will also support the construction of a commercial scale plant.

Iluka has also secured a non-exclusive world-wide licence over the Metalysis technology to produce titanium powder in return for a revenue royalty on normal commercial terms and a right of first offer over future titanium metal licences.

Tony Pedder, chairman of Metalysis, said: "Iluka coming in as a funding partner to Metalysis is an important part of the company's journey. Iluka's expertise in titanium dioxide as a feedstock, process engineering experience and access to global markets can make a significant impact on Metalysis' development.

"The Metalysis process has applications across metals in the periodic table including: titanium, tantalum and rare earths and with Iluka's access to titanium dioxide feedstock there is the potential to produce titanium powder with much greater efficiency and at a much lower cost than is currently possible."

David Robb, managing director of Iluka, said: "Iluka's involvement as a major shareholder and funding partner provides Iluka shareholders with access to a new, potentially disruptive technology which is close to commercialisation, and the potential benefits of a new source of high grade titanium dioxide feedstock demand, as well as a commercial involvement in a potential new growth pathway for high value metals and alloys and new manufacturing processes such as 3D printing."

Metalysis believes that its process could reduce the price of titanium by as much as 75 per cent, making titanium almost as cheap as speciality steels. It recently demonstrated how its low-cost titanium powder can be used to 3D print automotive and jet engine parts in the Mercury Centre at the University of Sheffield.

David Robb added: "This investment represents an opportunity for Iluka to utilise its understanding of the titanium industry, specifically the high grade and very high grade titanium dioxide feedstock sectors, and its strength in product development, to help bring a potentially game-changing technology to market.

"Metalysis represents an opportunity to invest in a technology which may have a material impact on the growth of various metals, but particularly titanium metals. The successful commercialisation of the Metalysis process could create significant value, and potentially result in a material increase in demand for Iluka's high grade chloride feedstocks."

Metalysis website

Images: Iluka


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