September 23, 2021

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Hyperion Expands Portfolio of Titanium Metal Technology

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Hyperion Metals Limited (ASX: HYM) (“Hyperion” or “the Company”) is pleased to announce that it has entered into an agreement with Blacksand Technology, LLC (“Blacksand”) to investigate the commercial development of spherical titanium metal powders using the GSD technology and an option to enter into an exclusive license agreement for the patents associated with the technology (“the Agreements”).

This follows from the previous agreement with Blacksand for the HAMR technology (refer ASX announcement dated 15 February 2021) which when combined with GSD and Hyperion’s Titan Project, has the potential to provide a sustainable, zero carbon, low-cost and fully integrated titanium spherical metal powder supply chain in the USA.

  • Hyperion has secured the exclusive rights to the patented Granulation-Sintering-Deoxygenation (“GSD”) technology developed by Dr. Z. Zak Fang for producing zero carbon, low-cost spherical titanium powders.
  • GSD offers major advantages in the production of spherical titanium for use in 3D printing, including:

    • Production of titanium and titanium alloy powders with low oxygen, controllable particle size and excellent flowability
    • Higher manufacturing yields than current processes, leading to significantly lower costs
    • Energy efficient process leading to a zero carbon process when coupled with renewable power
    • Ability to utilize lower cost and sustainable feedstocks including recycled titanium metal powders/scrap or HAMR titanium powders
  • The combination of producing titanium metal via the HAMR process followed by the production of titanium spherical powders via the GSD process has the potential to substantially reduce the total cost of titanium powders for 3D printing, opening up many potential new markets.
  • The combination of these technologies has the potential to disrupt not just the high value titanium metals and powders market, but also the far larger aluminum and stainless-steel markets.
  • Dr. Fang is a Professor of Metallurgy at the University of Utah. The HAMR and GSD technologies were developed, in part, with the financial support provided by the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) of the US Department of Energy from 2014-2019:

    • Dr. Fang is a leader in global advanced materials and manufacturing technologies for energy production, storage, and efficiency applications and is the sole or co-inventor on more than 50 U.S. patents
    • ARPA-E has provided over US$2.6 billion in R&D funding for more than 1,000 potentially transformational energy technology projects
    • ARPA-E analyzes and catalogues some of the Agency’s most successful projects through its “Impact Sheets,” which explore a range of individual projects and their achievements
    • The Impact Sheet for the HAMR and GSD technologies is available here: https://arpa-e.energy.gov/impact-sheet/university-utah-metals
    • Further development and optimization of titanium products from the HAMR and GSD technologies has occurred subsequent to the ARPA-E funded activities
  • The Company is making significant progress with Dr. Fang and his team in Utah on both the HAMR and GSD technologies and expects to make key updates, including:

    • HAMR powder production using the company’s titanium minerals from the Titan project
    • Commencement of GSD powder production from HAMR titanium powders and/or titanium recycled scrap
    • Techno-economic assessment for the scale up of production of titanium metal and powders

Commenting on the agreement, Mr. Anastasios Arima, CEO and MD of Hyperion Metals, said:

“Titanium metal is the superior metal for a wide range of advanced applications, from aerospace to defense, and it should also be the logical choice for industrial and civilian applications. Titanium’s widespread adoption has been held back in sectors such as consumer goods and electric vehicles due to its high cost.

The combination of the patented HAMR and GSD technologies together with advances in 3D printing offers a pathway to dramatically reduce the cost and carbon emissions of titanium metal components. Furthermore, recent studies by the Fraunhofer Institute have shown that the fabrication of titanium parts using laser powder-bed additive (a 3D printing technique), emits approximately 70% less CO2 than equivalent production by traditional milling processes.

Hyperion’s vision is to utilize these sustainable technologies and accelerate the rapid penetration of titanium in current and widespread applications in next generation mobility. The light weighting of trucks, trains, drones and electric vehicles will lead to a quantum leap in the energy efficiency of these vehicles and will be large, high growth new markets for titanium.

We aim to scale and commercialize these breakthrough technologies, make the US the global leader in titanium production and deliver technological leadership for in titanium applications for aerospace, space and defense.”

Commenting on the agreement, Dr. Z. Zak Fang said:

“We look forward to commercializing the HAMR and GSD technologies with Hyperion Metals. These technologies have produced titanium metal and powders that consistently met the purity requirements defined by industry standards and they have the potential to significantly lower the costs and carbon emissions of producing titanium metal and powders.

These technologies have the capacity to drastically alter the titanium, stainless steel and aluminum markets and increase the range of applications for high performance, lightweight and low-cost titanium parts.”

Titanium powders for 3D printing / additive manufacturing

Titanium has exceptional material properties including high strength, light weight, superior corrosion resistance and leading biocompatibility versus other metals.

Producing high quality spherical powders from titanium and titanium alloys is one of the critical building blocks for the rapidly growing, industrial scale, 3D printing / additive manufacturing sectors.

Additive manufacturing with titanium can provide many benefits to the medical, aerospace, EV, space and defense sectors, including;

  • Enhanced performance and sustainability by producing strong, lightweight parts that have high levels of corrosion resistance and are 100% recyclable
  • Reduced production lead times through iterative, software led design and rapid printing
  • Reduced waste and cost of producing a part – with scrap rates of less than 10% compared to over 90% for complex milled parts
  • In medical applications, titanium powders allow the rapid production of made-to-measure medical implants that are strong, lightweight, and critically, biocompatible.

To realize the benefits of utilizing titanium powders, they need to meet very high chemical and physical standards. This not only relates to high titanium or titanium alloy purities with low oxygen and other deleterious elements but physical properties of high sphericity, specific particle size distribution and flowability. Hence, these powders are typically produced via complex, post processing techniques following on from the production of high purity titanium metal ingot or wire production.

Spherical titanium powder production challenges

The high cost of titanium spherical powders has curtailed its use in additive manufacturing for products that require its superior properties of strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance and biocompatibility.

The price of titanium metal is approximately $8,500 per ton1, with the price of titanium spherical powder suitable for 3D printing potentially over $300,000 per ton1.

The current commercial processes for producing titanium spherical powders include gas atomization, plasma atomization and the plasma rotating electrode process.

Fine spherical powders can be produced with gas atomization and plasma atomization methods but, after size classification, the product yield is low. The plasma rotating electrode process produces titanium powder with good purity and excellent spherical shape, but the particle size is larger than required for many applications.

The limiting factor in all three processes is low product yield for fine powder, which is one of the main technical reasons for the very high cost of titanium powder used in additive manufacturing.

GSD – Breakthrough spherical powder technology

Granulation-sintering-deoxygenation (GSD) is a thermochemical process for producing spherical titanium powders used in 3D printing and additive manufacturing and was invented by Dr. Z. Zak Fang and his team at the University of Utah.

The GSD technology significantly improves the yield, by up to 50%, and produces a spherical powder with low oxygen, controllable particle size and excellent flowability.

The GSD manufacturing process steps are:

  1. Titanium metal or alloy is hydrogenated to make friable hydride and is then milled into fine particles
  2. The fine hydride particles are granulated into spherical granules in the desired size range using spray-drying
  3. The spherical granules are sintered to produce densified spherical titanium powder
  4. The densified spherical titanium powder is deoxygenated with magnesium to reduce the oxygen content to product specifications

The GSD technology can also introduce desirable alloying ingredients with the titanium hydride powder made in Step 1 to make titanium alloys. For example, titanium hydride powder can be blended with aluminum and vanadium powders to create the widely used alloy Ti-6Al-4V. Other alloying elements for titanium include Fe, Nb, Zr and Mo.

Importantly, the source material can also be recycled titanium scrap material. The manufacturing of titanium components and structures can generate a large amount of titanium machining chips (this ‘scrap’ can be over 90% for complex traditionally milled parts). This scrap titanium can be sorted, cleaned, and prepared for processing as the source material in Step 1 above. This recycling pathway for the GSD technology can reduce costs and significantly improve the sustainability of titanium metal manufacturing.

Process

Advantages

Disadvantages

Granulation-Sintering-

Deoxygenation

  • Controllable particle size
  • Low energy consumption
  • Very high powder yield / very low waste
  • A wide range of titanium alloys can easily be made
  • Excellent metallurgical quality
  • Excellent flowability
  • Recently invented and patented
  • Pilot scale – requires commercial scale up

Gas Atomisation

  • Excellent metallurgical quality
  • High powder flow rates
  • New and modified alloys can easily be made
  • Scalable technology: very high volumes available and can easily support AM growth
  • Large supply base
  • Variability in powder properties between suppliers
  • Large number of suppliers and atomising technologies can be confusing
  • Reactive and high melting point alloys not available
  • Few companies currently atomising titanium
  • Low product yield
  • High cost

Plasma Atomisation

  • Excellent metallurgical quality
  • Very high flow rates — near perfect spheres
  • Reactive and high melting point alloys can be made
  • Titanium alloys available
  • Limited supply base
  • Only alloys available as wire can be made
  • Low product yield
  • High cost

Plasma Rotating

Electrode Process

  • Excellent metallurgical quality
  • Very high flow rates — perfect spheres
  • Reactive and high melting point alloys can be made
  • Titanium alloys available
  • Limited supply base but growing
  • High quality bar needed as starting material
  • Low product yield
  • High cost

Table 1: Summary of powder characteristics by manufacturing process2,3

HAMR technology

Hyperion already holds an exclusive license for the patented HAMR technology that is a proven method for the production of titanium metal with significantly less energy than the current Kroll process. This technology was also developed by Professor Zak Fang and his team at the University of Utah with funding from the US Department of Energy.

The HAMR technology has successfully produced titanium metal at pilot plant scale at product qualities that exceed current industry standards. Detailed economic-energy analysis and process simulations indicate that the HAMR process uses ~50% less energy than the Kroll process, and offers a path to dropping the cost of titanium by approximately 50%. Using renewable electricity, it can produce zero carbon titanium metal.

The opportunity

The combination of the two patented technologies – GSD and HAMR – plus the advent of wide scale industrial 3D printing capabilities offers a compelling market opportunity.

The successful scale up of these technologies could potentially produce zero-carbon spherical titanium powders at a fraction of the cost, with economic modelling indicating a reduction in costs per ton of over 75%. Oak Ridge National Laboratories reports that 3D printing can cut down manufacturers’ use of raw materials by up to 90%. This quantum of efficiency and cost reduction would not just disrupt the titanium market, but also the far larger aluminum and stainless steel markets.

Titanium competes with metals such as aluminum and stainless steel for strength, and corrosion resistance, and while there are several other metals with excellent properties in these applications, none have the same combined superior properties of strength, weight and corrosive resistance as titanium.

The size of the global titanium primary metal market is ~US$4.2bn pa4. The size of the manufactured titanium part market, which would be the relevant comparator for additive manufacturing with titanium powders, is a multiple of US$4.2bn pa. The global primary stainless steel market is ~US$115bn pa5 and the aluminum market ~US$150bn pa6,7.

Titanium is a superior metal for a wide range of high-performance applications in the aerospace, medical, space and defense sectors. It is only cost that has held it back from being used for its superior properties in larger consumer markets such as the global transportation industry.

The patented HAMR and GSD technologies have the potential to provide a step change in the titanium supply chain process through eliminating process stages, reducing energy consumption, reducing carbon emissions and significantly cutting costs. Hyperion believes these breakthrough technologies offer a pathway to create the lowest cost, lowest carbon titanium components globally.

Next steps

  • Q3 2021: Produce titanium powders at the Blacksand Technology’s production facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, for customer and partner testing
  • Q3 2021: Commence techno-economic studies for the scale up of the HAMR and GSD titanium metals and powders production facility
  • Q4 2021: Bulk sample from Titan project converted into titanium metal and powders using HAMR and GSD technologies
  • H1 2022: Completion of techno-economic studies and FID for production scale HAMR and GSD plant

Dr. Z. Zak Fang Biography

Dr. Zak Fang currently serves as a Program Director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). His focus at ARPA-E is on advanced materials and manufacturing technologies for energy production, storage, and efficiency applications.

Prior to joining ARPA-E, Fang served as a Professor in Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Utah. There, he led a number of innovative research projects and was recognized with an R&D 100 Award for his efforts. He is also a serial inventor and entrepreneur. He has founded two small technology businesses and is the sole or co-inventor on more than 50 U.S. patents. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Utah, he held various technical and management positions in a number of industrial corporations, including Smith International.

Dr. Fang earned a B.S. and M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Science and Technology Beijing and a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is also a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, ASM International, and APMI International.

Further information for Dr. Fang can be found at the University of Utah’s website: (https://faculty.utah.edu/u0320607-ZHIGANG_ZAK_FANG/hm/index.hml)

Dr. Fang is the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Blacksand Technologies, LLC.

Links

Key Patents and References

  • Z. Zak Fang et al., Powder metallurgy methods for the production of fine and ultrafine grain Ti and Ti alloys, US patent 9,816,157 B2
  • Z. Zak Fang et al., Methods of producing a titanium product, US Patent App. 14/935,245
  • Ying Zhang et al., Methods of deoxygenating metals having oxygen dissolved therein in a solid solution, US Patent 9,669,464
  • Z. Zak Fang et al., Production of Substantially Spherical Metal Powders, US Patent 9,421,612
  • Ying Zhang et al., Methods of deoxygenating metals having oxygen dissolved therein in a solid solution, US Patent 9,669,464
  • Pei Sun et al., A Novel Method for Production of Spherical Ti-6Al-4V for Additive Manufacturing, Powder Technology, 301(2016):331-335.
  • Ying Zhang et al., Thermodynamic destabilization of Ti-O solid solution by H2 and de-oxygenation of Ti using Mg, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 138(2016):6916-6919.

About Blacksand

Blacksand Technology LLC is located in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is a materials innovation company founded in 2013 by Dr. Z. Zak Fang, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering of the University of Utah.

Blacksand is the worldwide exclusive licensee from the University of Utah for proprietary & patented technologies to produce low-cost powders for use in additive manufacturing and near net shape manufacturing of metal parts.

Blacksand’s patented technologies produce spherical and non-spherical titanium and its alloys, stainless-steel powders, and refractory metal alloy powders. Core competencies of Blacksand Technology include expertise on metallic materials manufacturing processes, metal powders synthesis, characterization, processing, sintering, and mechanical properties. Blacksand Technology’s expertise covers titanium, refractory metals, hard materials, and other specialty alloys.

Blacksand’s manufacturing and testing facilities in Salt Lake City can produce spherical titanium and titanium metal alloy powders. Testing capabilities include particle size and shape distribution characterization, chemical compositions, microstructure characterization using optical microscope and scanning electron microscopy, and the mechanical and erosion testing of metal parts.

About Hyperion Metals

Hyperion’s mission is to be the leading developer of zero carbon, sustainable, critical material supply chains for advanced American industries including space, aerospace, electric vehicles and 3D printing.

The Company holds a 100% interest in the Titan Project, covering nearly 6,000 acres of titanium, rare earth minerals, high grade silica sand and zircon rich mineral sands properties in Tennessee, USA. The Titan Project is strategically located in the southeast of the USA, with low-cost road, rail and water logistics connecting it to world class manufacturing industries.

Hyperion has secured options for the exclusive license to produce low carbon titanium metal and spherical powers using the breakthrough HAMR & GSD technologies. The HAMR & GSD technologies were invented by Dr. Z. Zak Fang and his team at the University of Utah with government funding from ARPA-E.

The HAMR technology has demonstrated the potential to produce titanium powders with low-to-zero carbon intensity, significantly lower energy consumption, significantly lower cost and at product qualities which exceed current industry standards. The GSD technology is a thermochemical process combining low cost feedstock material with high yield production, and can produce spherical titanium and titanium alloy powders at a fraction of the cost of comparable commercial powders.

Hyperion also has signed an MOU to establish a partnership with Energy Fuels (NYSE:UUUU) that aims to build an integrated, all-American rare earths supply chain. The MOU will evaluate the potential supply of rare earth minerals from Hyperion’s Titan Project to Energy Fuels for value added processing at Energy Fuels’ White Mesa Mill. Rare earths are highly valued as critical materials for magnet production essential for wind turbines, EVs, consumer electronics and military applications.

1 Roskill – Titanium Metal Outlook to 2030

2 Metal AM, An introduction to metal powders for AM: Manufacturing processes and properties, https://www.metal-am.com/articles/metal-powders-for-3d-printing-manufacturing-processes-and-properties/

3 Iver E. Anderson, Emma M.H. White, Ryan Dehoff, Feedstock powder processing research needs for additive manufacturing development, Current Opinion in Solid State and Materials Science, Volume 22, Issue 1, 2018, Pages 8-15

4 Roskill Titanium Metal 10 Edition Update 1 – November 2020

5 Alcoa Corporation Investor Presentation, May 2021

6 Outokumpu, https://www.outokumpu.com/en/investors/outokumpu-as-an-investment/operating-environment

7 MEPS, https://www.meps.co.uk/gb/en/products/world-stainless-steel-prices

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