Continuum, the sustainable metal recycling arm of California 3D printing startup MolyWorks, has raised $36 million in a private equity funding round to support the rapid advancement of the circular metals economy. Growing demand for sustainable materials is driving interest in companies like MolyWorks and its newly minted commercial arm Continuum, especially considering how recycled metal scrap could become the choice feedstock for companies that are kinder to the environment.
Private equity firm Ara Partners, which specializes in industrial decarbonization, made the investment. The funds will be destined to expand Continuum’s production of 100% recycled commercial metal powder to meet the growing customer demand for sustainable, responsibly sourced materials for engineered parts. Ara’s partnership will also support the company’s international growth and continued research into adjacent technologies and customer applications.
According to Continuum and MolyWorks CEO Phil Ward, the additive manufacturing powder market is expected to more than triple over the next five years as the 3D printing industry hits a commercial inflection point.
“Ara’s investment allows us to supply the industry’s growth with a sustainable solution. Ara has demonstrated experience scaling businesses that support the transition to a circular economy, and we look forward to working with them as a strategic and financial partner,” says Ward.
With eight successful investments in companies like lithium-ion recycler Blue Whale Materials and energy management firm Utility Global, Ara Partners and ten acquisitions, the most recent being biofuel retailer Lincoln, Ara Partners is seeking to build businesses that are focused on sustainability and ESG principles (environmental, social and governance). Ara Partners closed its second fund with approximately $1.1 billion in capital commitments in September 2021, exceeding its $650 million initial target and increasing its hard cap. This follows the firm’s debut fund, which closed with roughly $400 million in May 2020 and led to key investments like aluminum oxide manufacturer Polar Sapphire.
The new investment will fund Continuum’s accelerated expansion of 100% recycled commercial metal powder production to meet growing customer demand for sustainable materials. As the newest investor, Ara Partners says it plans to leverage its experience scaling and decarbonizing industrial businesses to support the advancement of Continuum’s recycling and manufacturing capabilities, which expand the supply chain for the growing circular metals economy.
“Creating a circular metals economy is critical to meeting the world’s sustainability goals. Titanium, stainless steel, and Inconel alone account for tens of millions of tons of scrap metal each year that will need to be repurposed in the new sustainable economy,” said Cory Steffek, Partner at Ara. “We are incredibly excited about the opportunity to help Continuum scale and address these enormous hurdles.”
In 2020, roughly 1.5 billion metric tons of steel were produced in only seven regions, with China making the majority at 1,052 million tons of steel, according to data published by the Statista Research Department. China is also the biggest consumer of recycled steel and has set forth national standards in line with the adoption of recycled global metal policies.
In the US alone, the metal recycling industry is estimated at $20 billion, with metal recyclers handling roughly 120 million tons of recyclables each year. Recycling metal replaces the need to produce virgin metal, which helps preserve precious natural resources used in metal production. Luckily, demand is growing worldwide for recycled metals like steel, and with companies like Continuum doing their part for sustainable resource feedstock, entire technologies like AM can continue thriving.
Continuum is advancing the world of additive manufacturing and metallurgy industries by providing the highest quality ISO/AS-certified metal alloy powders using a proprietary process. The business addresses the missing link in the circular metal supply chain through its unique ability to produce high-quality materials for engineered parts using 100% recycled and responsibly sourced materials.
Helping accelerate the circular future is at the core of materials manufacturing. Engineered for AM processes like laser powder bed fusion (LPBF), direct energy deposition (DED), and binder jetting, Continuum’s flagship Optipowder circulates recycled metals back into the manufacturing pipeline in the form of a high-quality powder. The Optipowder has complete traceability and maximum purity, is ISO/AS certified and has more than 30 different alloys available, like stainless steel, alpha-beta titanium Ti64 g5, and nickel-based superalloy Ni 718. Like its umbrella company MolyWorks, Continuum is making materials that are compatible with some of the biggest names in 3D printing, including 3D Systems, Renishaw, EOS, ArcamEBM, and Optomec.
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