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About a year ago, Metalysis signed on to a project focused on the development of a new aluminum-scandium alloy for 3D printing. Demand for strong alloys like aluminum-scandium is increasing, particularly in the automotive and aerospace industries, but scandium is expensive – in fact, it can triple manufacturing costs. It’s also somewhat scarce, mined as a byproduct with little surety of supply. Metalysis joined the project last year to focus on those two issues – cost and lack of supply.

One of the reasons scandium is in such high demand for the automotive and aerospace industries is that it is extremely lightweight. Lightweighting aircraft and automobiles has been a priority among manufacturers, as lighter weight means lower cost, as well as higher performance with a lower environmental footprint. Affordable, accessible scandium could make a big difference in reducing emissions of airplanes and automobiles.

This week, Metalysis provided an update on how the project is going. The company is using its modular electrochemical technology to produce a scandium-rich feedstock addition, supporting master alloy production. This process can produce a large variety of powder alloys at lower costs, and in more environmentally-friendly ways, than traditional melting processes.

[Image: Australian Mines]

In H2 2017, Phase I of the project took place, involving proof-of-principle activities using Metalysis’ Generation 1 technology, which successfully produced the AlSc alloy feedstock addition. The alloy is more than 15 times higher in scandium content than the currently available 2wt% scandium master alloy, and was produced at lower cost. In H1 2018, during Phase II, Metalysis began qualifying scandium oxide to produce the AlSc alloy feedstock from new sources. This is an effort to address global production and supply concerns.

To continue doing this in the second half of 2018, Metalysis has accepted a new partner for the project. Australian Mines is a producer and supplier of battery and technology metals, and is working on the development of cobalt-scandium-nickel materials for cleaner and more sustainable energy sources. Scandium oxide from Australian Mines’ Sconi project in northern Queensland will be evaluated and used for further aluminum-scandium production.

The research and development program has employed several partners working with scandium oxide technology, trading, supply and mine development and production. The program is taking place at Metalysis’ Materials Discovery Center in South Yorkshire, UK, where Metalysis conducts commercial projects with corporate partners and academia to produce advanced materials that are becoming in higher demand among industries such as automotive, advanced manufacturing and additive manufacturing.

The program will also benefit Metalysis’ Materials Manufacturing Center, also in South Yorkshire. The company’s “Generation 4” industrial scale production facility is located here. The modular Generation 4 facility builds upon Generations 1 through 3 of Metalysis’ technology is capable of producing hundreds of tonnes of specialty powder alloys. Generation 4’s commercial production will begin later in 2018, and a potential launch product will be the aluminum scandium alloy.

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