IperionX wins US Air Force recycling challenge to produce titanium powders

January 18, 2023

IperionX will be eligible to produce titanium metal powders for the AFRL from scrap materials (Courtesy IperionX)
IperionX will be eligible to produce titanium metal powders for the AFRL from scrap materials (Courtesy IperionX)

IperionX Ltd., Charlotte, North Carolina, has won the US Department of Defense’s National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Grand Challenge contract. As a result, IperionX will be eligible to produce titanium metal powders from scrap materials and rejuvenate used or out-of-specification Ti powder for the AFRL.

Winning this Grand Challenge against a field of titanium industry participants is said to be an important validation of IperionX’s patented technologies to produce circular, low-carbon and lower cost titanium metal from 100% recycled titanium scrap or out-of-specification titanium powder feedstocks.

The US Air Force and US Department of Defense are accelerating the use of Additive Manufacturing to reduce long lead cycle times and produce large volumes of complex parts for advanced weapons systems.

Typically, only 20%-40% of titanium powder used in AM ends up in fabricated parts. Ti metal powders are typically reused a limited number of times before the quality is compromised by elevated contaminant levels or inferior powder morphology. Out-of-specification Ti powders increase the probability of defects and jeopardize the structural integrity of additively manufactured components.

Titanium produced by the current Kroll Process is high carbon, energy intensive and expensive. Companies across the defence, automotive, consumer electronics and luxury goods sectors want to source low carbon, low-cost titanium from traceable recycled sources. IperionX’s patented technologies offer a pathway to significantly lower cost, and lower carbon, Ti powders for components in these industries.

The patented technologies were developed by Dr Zak Fang, an American Professor of Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Utah, and enables IperionX to upcycle a wide variety of low-grade, high-oxygen Ti scrap which has historically been downcycled to lower value markets. IperionX is able to achieve greater yields of nearly 100% from low-grade scrap without the need for blending the scrap with high-grade primary metal.

Winning the Grand Challenge also complements IperionX’s project with Materials Resources, LLC to qualify titanium alloy powders for the US Navy and test titanium flight critical metal replacement components for the US Department of Defense.

“Winning the Grand Challenge is an outstanding endorsement of IperionX’s patented titanium technologies,” stated Anastasios (Taso) Arima, IperionX CEO. “Our leading technologies can efficiently recycle titanium scrap metal and metal powders at lower cost than existing processes, and we look forward to working closely with NSIN, AFRL and other Department of Defense agencies to qualify and rapidly deploy the use of circular titanium metal across key defence platforms.”

The winner of the Grand Challenge is eligible for a contract award up to $500,000 across four phases, with IperionX successfully completing Phase 1, and will complete Phases 2 – 4 as part of routine production operations at its Titanium Pilot Facility in Utah. Phase 2 consists of the generation of a precursor Ti feedstock; 3, Ti powder production; and 4, build, rest and analyse overall cost savings

Dr. Calvin Mikler, Materials Engineer, AFRL, concluded, “The AFRL team is excited to work with IperionX on the next phase of the titanium recyclability Grand Challenge. IperionX seemed to really understand the purpose of the Grand Challenge and pitched a unique strategy to deoxygenate and rejuvenate used titanium powders and scrap materials back into powder suitable for additive manufacturing of aerospace-quality parts. We can’t wait to see the results of all the hard work yet to come!”


In the latest issue of Metal AM magazine

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Extensive AM industry news coverage, as well as the following exclusive deep-dive articles:

  • Metal powders in Additive Manufacturing: An exploration of sustainable production, usage and recycling
  • Inside Wayland Additive: How innovation in electron beam PBF is opening new markets for AM
  • An end-to-end production case study: Leveraging data-driven machine learning and autonomous process control in AM
  • Consolidation, competition, and the cost of certification: Insight from New York’s AM Strategies 2024
  • Scandium’s impact on the Additive Manufacturing of aluminium alloys
  • AM for medical implants: An analysis of the impact of powder reuse in Powder Bed Fusion

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