Beating the Russians at Titanium

12th September, 2017

By Supratim Adhikari 

Melbourne-based additive manufacturing outfit Titomic hopes its technology pitch will cut through to savvy investors as it gets ready to land on the ASX later this month.

Titomic’s biggest promise is the 3D technology, jointly developed by CSIRO and Force Industries, which it has at its disposal. Technology that it says offers a more ­efficient and environmentally friendly way to build things.

According to Titomic CEO and CTO Jeffrey Lang the company is commercialising a CSIRO patented process to use Titanium alloy particles to build parts. It’s a twist to the traditional cold spray technology that’s widely used for metal coatings or repairs in industrial and military sectors.

“This has been used as a coating technology but we are turning it into an additive manufacturing process, so instead of just coating a surface we actually build a part,” he told The Australian.

The technology, Titomic Kinetic Fusion, also puts a new spin on 3D printing, a trend that Mr Lang said was somewhat misunderstood by the public.

“Not all 3D printing is the same. When people think about 3D printing they think about small, precise parts, but our focus is industrial scale and size is no limitation for us,” he said.

“The facility we are building at the moment will have a metal 3D printer that’s 9m by 3m by 1.5m ... so we are talking about additive manufacturing in a scale that no one can comprehend at this stage.

“We build things at a lot quicker volume. We can currently ­deposit 45kg of material per hour. The average 3D printer does about 1kg in 24 hours.’’

The other big plus for Titomic, Mr Lang said, was that the cost of the titanium powder used is low compared to the more traditional use of titanium in manufacturing.

“We can make parts cheaper and that opens up an opportunity for the auto industry to use ­titanium more cheaply and it also opens up the opportunity for us to export high-quality components globally.”

Titomic’s facility is scheduled to be turned on in December. Trials will begin in the first quarter of 2018. Once the 3D printer and the production line are ready, ­Titomic is looking to put the technology to test by pumping out seamless titanium bicycle frames at a rate of one every 25 minutes.

Titomic is slated to make its ASX debut on September 21, valued at $22 million after raising $6.5m from investors. Mr Lang said Australia’s manufacturing ­future doesn’t necessarily need to be bleak.

Not only does Titomic showcase the technical prowess of CSIRO, Mr Lang said that it also highlights how the disjointed relationship between and industry and research can be overcome.

“This whole process started with a focus on Australia’s sovereign capabilities,’’ he said.

“We have lots of mineral sands that hold titanium but the ­titanium industry is controlled by the Russians.

“By using Australian resources, we become more cost competitive and we can become a global hub of additive technology.”

How Titomic fares in the market will be a handy barometer of how Australian investors see the future of manufacturing in Australia.

While a lot of focus has been on the demise of the Australian car industry, Mr Lang said there was plenty of potential in the small-to- medium business space that’s being overlooked.

“One thing that gets missed by people is that 93 per cent of manufacturing is done by small and ­medium businesses that are trading under $20m a year,” he said.

“There’s a lot of ingenuity and skill tied up in these SMEs but they really don’t have a voice.”

Translating quality research into commercially viable businesses was an important lesson that Mr Lang said Australia could learn from its global peers.

“When you look at Germany and the UK, there are institutes with very high rates of commercialising research and programs built to develop advanced manufacturing … these link back to not just academia but to apprenticeships and at TAFE level as well,” he said.

“What Australia does have is a pioneering spirit that’s intrinsic to us and an ability to use ingenuity to solve problems.

“We do have the people but what we need to do is finesse the infrastructure.”

View source version on The Australian :

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