Continuum’s New CEO Discusses Launch of Powder as a Service for 3D Printing

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Continuum Powders, previously known as MolyWorks Material Corporation, has rebranded and appointed Rob Higby as its new Chief Executive Officer. Higby takes over from Phil Ward, who will now serve as President of Asia Pacific, focusing on the company’s operations and customer success in the region.

Phil Ward led the organization through significant milestones, including customer adoption, intellectual property development, quality systems certification, and the establishment of funding partnerships since 2020. Rob Higby, with a background in building high-performance teams and delivering manufacturing solutions, is ideally positioned to lead Continuum Powders.

Before joining Continuum, Higby was an Executive Partner with AEA Investors, where he led the firm’s Aerospace & Defense investment practice. He has also held significant roles, including CEO of TurbineAero and Advisor to the Board of Directors at Velo3D Inc. To learn more, we spoke to Higby, who relayed how his experience in aerospace maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) has directly influenced his position operating Continuum as it launches its new Powders as a Service solution.

Bringing Aerospace Expertise to Metal Powders

Powering its Greyhound M2P gas atomization platform with sustainable energy, Continuum produces its OptiPowders — including Ni718, Ni625, SS316L, SS17-4PH, C300, and Ti64 — entirely from metal waste. By upcycling metal scrap into refined metal powders for 3D printing, Continuum provides a streamlined powder lifecycle management (PLM) process, significantly reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions compared to traditional methods. This approach has garnered attention from investors, like Ara Partners, who see the transformative potential in Continuum’s ability to deliver high-quality, cost-competitive metal powders with minimal environmental impact.

The Greyhound 3.0 powder production system from Continuum Powders.

Higby’s extensive experience in commercial and service roles at companies like GE Aviation and TurbineAero has equipped him with a deep understanding of the aerospace and defense industries. His strategic vision for Continuum includes leveraging this expertise to expand the company’s presence in these sectors and beyond. Higby’s vision for Continuum Powders is clear and ambitious. He emphasized the importance of combining diverse skill sets within the company to enhance customer service and product offerings.

“One of the more exciting parts about our industry is how the successful companies are approaching being service-oriented and technically astute while having a product that’s relevant and exciting,” Higby said. He highlighted the unique value proposition Continuum offers, particularly in sustainability, which he believes is often underrepresented in the broader industry. “We’re providing a zero-carbon footprint product and services offering that ties with something you have to do anyway if you’re an advanced manufacturing leader,” he added.

Higby also discussed the strategic importance of building a sales and service team that balances expertise in powder sales with deep knowledge of the aerospace OEM market. This approach ensures that Continuum remains service-oriented and technically proficient, fostering a culture of innovation and customer focus.

Powder as a Service

Under Higby’s leadership, Continuum Powders aims to disrupt both 3D printing and manufacturing with its Powder as a Service model. Drawing parallels with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Higby envisions a future where customers do not have to worry about powder availability, quality, or waste management. Continuum will handle all aspects of powder lifecycle management, allowing customers to focus on their core manufacturing processes. This includes everything from recovering scrap, recycling it into high quality 3D printing powder, and delivering the feedstock back to the client.

“We don’t want our customers to have to think about it at all,” Higby explained. “We want them to know that the powder is going to be reclaimed so that they don’t have to worry about getting hazardous waste removed, best practices, and everything else.” This model not only simplifies operations for customers but also contributes to sustainability by reclaiming and reusing powder, reducing the overall environmental footprint.

Continuum’s approach to sustainability is not just about reducing carbon footprints but also about creating a circular economy for metal powders. By reclaiming and re-atomizing used powder, the company provides a continuous supply of high-quality material that meets industry specifications. This process not only reduces waste but also offers significant cost savings to customers.

“The ability to provide powder as a new source is just a relief for the supply chain organizations,” Higby noted. This innovative approach has the potential to transform how companies manage their powder needs, making it easier and more cost-effective to maintain a steady supply of materials while adhering to strict environmental standards.

While Powder as a Service is just now taking off, it holds significant promise for a number of reasons, not the least of which is supply chain resilience. This trend, being pushed by governments and corporations globally, is driving the twin forces of reshoring and sustainability.

“If you look at the aerospace and defense or industrial gas turbine industry, major OEMs are producing thousands of tons of waste per year. And they’re storing that waste — parts that have timed out, like fan blades, stators, nozzles, et cetera, that are all manufactured in a metal that we are hungry to recycle. Some of the alloys that we’re working on are very prevalent in aerospace, like titanium and Inconel, and are very difficult to get in a lot of cases.  Our ability to provide powder as a new source using existing stock is just a relief for the supply chain organizations.”

At the same time, Continuum is looking at being able to provide credit to these same companies, so they’re able to offload waste, retrieve usable powder, and receive financial incentives to participate in circular production. As reshoring results in shorter, less energy intensive supply routes, material upcycling ensures a close-loop source for domestic resources. All of the above spells success for Continuum, as large manufacturers look to shrink and reinforce their supply chains in a resource-scarce world.

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