IperionX is planning to open a recycled powder plant in Virginia. It hopes to in the beginning of 2024 open a low carbon use facility that could produce 125 tonnes of titanium per year. Subsequently it hopes to in 2025 expand to a facility with a capacity of 1,125 tonnes per year in 2025. The company believes that it can make powder for around $72 a kilo initially and later make it available for $42 per kilo.
They also state that they hope to be the largest supplier worldwide of low carbon recycled titanium. This puts the company at a very interesting intersection of large trends and needs. The US wants to be able to make its own titanium and other advanced metals. It is now largely dependent on Canadian and more worryingly Ukrainian, Chinese, Australian and Indian minerals to be used for titanium. India is very pro Russian at the moment as is China. China is widely expected to be an adversary nation in the future and Australia looks far away. To compound this problem, titanium is excellent in properties for a lot of defense kit in strength, corrosion resistance and lightness. Titanium alloys are also very widely used. It is a very durable metal with an excellent strength to weight ratio. It would be difficult to replace. Contemporary weapons systems are also very complex and take a long time to develop. It is not like in the 1940´s when you can send a few guys out in search of balsa wood to make a new airplane. Components specced for titanium would be difficult to replace. In Additive Manufacturing in particular, titanium plays an important part. And in 3D printing it is next to impossible to move away from one qualified material made on one machine towards a new machine or powder quickly.
The other trend is the search for more environmentally friendly materials that use less carbon, less transport, less virgin materials and are generally more resilient. This has broad appeal and could become more important as time goes on and people become more environmentally conscious. In 3D printing we are already noticing a strong uptick in interest in recycled and more sustainable materials. So wrap this lovely package in the flag and IperionX is off to the races.
IperionX also uses Hydrogen Assisted Metallothermic Reduction (HAMR) which is a process whereby titanium oxide is turned into titanium in a energy efficient way. Developed out of an ARPA-E project, the process uses hydrogen which, as one effect, keeps oxygen levels in the final powders low, a very desired quality in 3D printing and other processes. They also use the Granulation Sintering Deoxygenation process to make powders spherical.
IperionX CEO Anastasios Arima stated,
“We have now developed plans for the world’s first and largest recycled titanium powder facility, with initial production from the first stage 125 tpa TDF forecast to come online in early 2024 with a simple and modular expansion to a 1,125 tpa TCF-1 by the end of 2025.
“The pathway for the development of the TDF and TCF-1 build upon the learnings from our current Industrial Pilot Facility operations in Utah where we have been producing circular titanium metal since early 2022. The development of the TDF & TCF-1 will scale our production to commercial quantities of 100% recycled titanium metal while also reducing the cost providing the potential for titanium to compete on price with other metals, including stainless steel and aluminum.
“The U.S. is a tier 1 fiscal and manufacturing operating environment with a large pipeline of government incentives potentially available to IperionX. We look forward to rapidly advancing our developments through 2023 and moving towards scaled up production to secure a U.S. supply chain of this critical metal.”
The company has yet to internally approve the decision to build the scale up facility. Also going from 15 tonnes of spherical powder initially and then trying to convert more cast off into spherical powder so that they can make 125 tonnes looks like it could be nonobvious. They would need over $6 million initially and a further $70 million to scale up to over 1000 tonnes a year. Molyworks has been working on a similar challenge, albeit very differently using an EIGA in a box. It split off its recycled powder business which got a $36 million investment in 2022. Metal Powder Works by veteran John Barnes and friends is hoping to do something similar with a wholly new process. 6K raised over $120 million to make powders as well. All in all this is a huge opportunity for the US military and industry in general and we will expect to see continued strong investments in the space.
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