UK-based metal powder provider LPW Technology has opened a new plant.
The company provides a series of high-quality metal powders used by many different types and brands of 3D metal printers. They also provide a number of products and services surrounding the use of metal powder, including storage and processing systems, and a software tool for tracking powder lifecycle and usage. LPW Technology explains:
In addition to manufacturing AM specific metal powder, LPW houses world leading material testing equipment to fully characterise metal powders and 3D Printers to develop the next generation of materials for AM. The unique portfolio of atomisation processes, range of AM metal powders and PowderSolve industry 4.0 process software has been developed by LPW to increase material yield and ultimately reduce risk throughout the AM process.
Now they’ve opened up a brand new 90,000sf facility near Liverpool that will be able to produce various fine metal powders for their clients. They explain:
The factory houses a variety of powder production equipment referred to as atomisers, which melt feedstock at approximately 1700ºC. The molten metal is then converted into fine grade metal powder used to 3D-print parts for critical applications in aerospace, automotive and biomedical industries.
Yes, atomizers literally spray molten material into air where it quickly solidifies into powder. But the process is vastly more complex than that: in order to achieve uniform powder dimensions and geometry, the flows and temperatures must be very precisely controlled.
Capture and storage of the material must also be very carefully done, as exposure to oxygen can contaminate many 3D metal printing powders as the substances tend to oxidize, ruining their potential use in 3D metal printers.
It’s all very complex and thus expensive. LPW Technology reports they’ve spent an incredible £20M (USD$27M) to build and open the new plant.
That’s a lot of money to invest, and I’m sure their plans involve paying it off over many years through increased sales of 3D metal printing powders.
However, one concern I had was whether their plans may have been compromised by the pending Brexit changes. Depending on how the UK exits the EU, LPW Technology may find their products subject to import taxes in the EU.
That could pose problems for their plans for the site, as it was likely planned and committed to before all this Brexit stuff occurred. But once you sign the papers to build a site, you’re committed, regardless of what else happens.
LPW Technology may be just fine, however, as the price of 3D metal printing powder is quite high, and the advantages of producing products with it are often considerable. So it may be that their EU customers may notice much difference.
Via LPW Technology