The metal powder segment is one of the fastest evolving areas of the 3D printing industry, where we’re awaiting huge technological innovations to kickstart a revolution in the space. In turn, there are a handful of players that are putting effort into advancing beyond traditional methods of powder production. Among them is Metal Powder Works (MPW), a new startup that has developed a proprietary technique for making metal powder.
Using specialty software to tightly control metal particle output, MPW’s DirectPowder system is able to create precise particle sizes and morphologies at room temperature. In turn, not only is MPW able to tackle issues of yield, cost, and quality, but it’s able to do so with less energy than necessary with typical plasma atomization.
In its first big news since the company officially launched last year, MPW has announced its first customer, Solvus Global. With the purchase of a DirectPowder system from MPW, the company will have the first installation of such a unit outside MPW’s facility at Neighborhood 91. Solvus Global is now a part of MPW’s Developer Network, an initiative that seeks to pool the capabilities of innovative startups to streamline the creation of new powder materials, some of which have been challenging to produce until now.
Powders on Demand CEO Brad Richards said, “We’re excited to lead the way in economic production of powders starting at R&D all the way through commercial scale to enable our public and private sector customers to push the boundaries of AM and coatings.” As Solvus Global Co-Founder & CEO, Aaron Birt describes it, “For instance, there are only 16 approved AMS [Aerospace Material] specifications for powder today while there are more than 2,000 approved AMS specifications for bar stock. AM needs more than 16 alloys to be successful.”
Metal Powder Works’ CEO and Founder John Barnes commented, “We’ve known the people at Solvus Global for a very long time, even before MPW existed. It is crucial for us to help the AM community by making more materials available in powder form, so every business case doesn’t automatically require a change in material. Solvus Global understands the requirements of the various processes for powder, so this is a natural partnership.”
Solvus is a comparatively new and unique entity. Founded in 2017, the Massachusetts-based firm not only processes metal under the Powders on Demand brand but also hosts some of the most novel additive manufacturing (AM) technologies in the industry, including friction stir welding and supersonic 3D deposition, alongside laser powder bed fusion (PBF) and wire arc AM.
However, beyond that, Solvus has a number of associated brands and companies pursuing unique applications. Kinetic Batteries, for instance is developing methods for 3D printing solid state batteries, while VALIS (hopefully named for my favorite book by Philip K. Dick) is dedicated to software for waste material reclamation.
Together, MPW and Solvus could evolve to establish quite an important entity in the world of digital manufacturing. According to the latest “Metal AM Markets: 2023” report from Additive Manufacturing Research (AMR), metal AM is expected to reach $5.4 billion in revenues by the end of 2023, despite economic headwinds. In the first half of of the year, metal AM powders specifically experienced 33% year-over-year growth. By 2031, AMR expects the global market for metal 3D printed parts to hit a whopping $75 billion in components produced annually.
What will be necessary for the continued growth of this important sector is the ability to recycle materials for AM feedstocks. Given the fact that natural resources are in short supply, recycling them will be key for manufacturing to continue forward. With MPW’s unique processing method and Solvus’s insights into recycling, the partnership could become a dominant force in the manufacturing of tomorrow.
However, they won’t be alone. So far, there are several other businesses that are working in the same space. Specifically, this includes Molyworks/Continuum, IperionX, and 6K (this last company is hosting a webinar with Agile Space on November 16, 2023, at 2 PM Eastern, where I will act as moderator). This segment also won’t remain so small. As AM grows, so too will the production of metal powders. Formnext 2023 attendees will be able to learn more about the partnership between MPW and Solvus at the MPW booth.
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