Liberty Powder Metals, owned by Liberty House Group, an industrial metals company based in the UK, has received a £4.6 million investment to develop specialty alloy metal powders for 3D printed car parts. As part of the Liberty House scheme, this investment comes from Liberty Steel and the CASCADE project, a Research and Development initiative funded by the UK Government. Ben Houchen, Mayor of the Tees Valley, North Yorkshire, where the project will be based, stated:
“STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVE ON NEW TECHNOLOGIES LIKE SPECIALTY METAL POWDERS, AND THE 3D PRINTED PRODUCTS THEY’RE USED IN, COULD CREATE A WHOLE NEW INDUSTRIAL CLUSTER AND MANY JOBS FOR LOCAL WORKERS.”
The Liberty House Scheme
Last week, at a cabinet meeting, Mayor Houchen, leader of the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) signed off the investment for the project which will be based at the Materials Processing Institute (MPI) located in Middlesbrough. As a result of this location, the project will have access to an atomizer, two of its kind in the UK, which will enable collaborative research programmes into advanced materials.
“This investment will give Teesside the chance to compete in a potentially huge new global market,” added Mayor Houchen.
“THE FACT THAT A COMPANY AS BIG AS LIBERTY HAS CHOSEN TO BRING THIS PROJECT TO THE TEES VALLEY SHOWS THAT WE ARE A REAL MAGNET FOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AND FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT. IF WE KEEP BACKING OUR JOB CREATORS, INNOVATORS, ENTREPRENEURS, AND RISK TAKERS, PRIVATE INVESTMENT WILL FLOOD INTO OUR AREA TO DEVELOP FUTURE-PROOF INDUSTRIES LIKE THIS ONE.”
In 2011, SSI, a Thai steel firm, acquired the Teesside Cast Products plant in Redcar, North Yorkshire. In 2015, this plant went into liquidation, decreasing the workforce and innovations in metal manufacturing.
Jon Bolton, Chief Executive of Liberty Steel UK said: “As a group we are committed to revitalizing the metals and engineering industry through innovation and we’re very proud to partner with the Tees Valley Combined Authority and the Materials Processing Institute to take forward a game-changing technology that will build a bright new future for these sectors in the UK and worldwide.”
Atomizers enabling novel metal 3D printing materials
An atomizer, a device which will be integral within the materials research of this project, processes and producing spherical metal powders using the powder bed fusion additive manufacturing technologies as well as Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Electron Beam Melting (EBM).
Last year, 3D Lab, a Polish 3D printing company, debuted its a spherical metal powder atomiser, ATO One, at Formnext 2017. The machine is capable of processing both reactive and non-reactive materials such as titanium, magnesium or aluminum alloys, and can produce medium grain sizes ranging from 20 to 100 μm, as well as narrow grain size distribution.
Following this, the Royce Institute for Advanced Materials at the University of Sheffield in the UK, acquired an inert gas atomizer from Arcast Inc., a vacuum furnace provider based in Maine, for research and production of novel alloys for additive manufacturing.
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