Aurora Labs Limited (“Aurora” or “the Company”) (ASX: A3D), is pleased to announce that its prototype Powder Production Unit (“PPU”) has successfully produced laboratory test scale powder which shows the expected spherical shape suitable for most powdered metal applications. This comes after the prototype was completed in March 2018.
The prototype PPU is intended to test and demonstrate the technology for producing very high-quality powders for use with 3D metal printers at substantially lower cost than existing processes.
Reaching this next milestone along the Company’s PPU development timeline is an important achievement for Aurora. The ultimate development of successful powder production technology has the potential to unlock a material ongoing revenue stream for the Company while expanding into substantial global markets. Aurora is currently in discussion with a number of global powder manufacturers, exploring possible synergies and business opportunities.
The powder produced from the test samples has demonstrated a very tight size distribution. This is a positive indication that the very high yields that the Aurora process is targeting are capable of being achieved.
Traditional processes of manufacturing spherical metal powder suitable for 3D printing applications produce a very wide size distribution (from very small to very large powder particles) of powder. Typically, only a fraction of the powder that is produced is in the correct size range for use in printing. The balance has to be recycled or allocated to other markets.
By having a very tight size distribution (i.e. where all the powder particles are close to each other in size), Aurora’s process potentially will result in much higher yields when compared to traditional processes.
The primary advantages that the Company is aiming to achieve in the development of its powder production process, relative to existing processes currently employed, include the following:
- produce a higher quality product (very tight size range, solid spherical powder);
- produce a high yield;
- have lower capital cost to build a PPU; and
- lower cost of powder production; hence powder may be able to be produced by Aurora’s PPUs at a very competitive price.
The next phase of proving high volume production will be important to confirm these yields and quality parameters. The production method employed in the prototype PPU is still in early development. Whilst the initial results from testing are significant and positive, they are early stage results and further testing and refinement of the process is required.
It is intended that the powders produced will support part of the projected high utilisation of consumables from the Company’s Large Format Printer which is currently under development. The Company is developing the powder manufacturing parameters for the production of a full range of metal consumable powders as the process is refined. Aurora’s ultimate aim is to build an assembly line for full-sized PPUs, each capable of producing up to 5 tonnes of powder per day.
Currently, the international powdered metals market, e.g. metal injection moulding (MIM) powders, is valued in the billions of dollars1. Advancing Aurora’s PPU technology is intended to develop significant synergies between metal powder production and the anticipated demand created by additive manufacturing.
Aurora will continue to explore business models and commercial opportunities in international markets where there is already a large, existing demand for metal powders by industries that are not related to 3D printing.