Financial difficulties at UK based metal 3D printing powder manufacturer Metalysis has forced directors to place the company into administration. As of June 3, 2019, Eddie Williams and Chris Petts of professional services firm Grant Thornton UK LLP have been in charge of managing the company’s affairs, business and property, which includes its South Yorkshire Materials Discovery Centre which opened in 2017.
In a statement, Williams explained, “Metalysis is a truly innovative UK business with a unique disruptive technology that urgently requires new ownership and further ongoing investment. Despite the directors’ best efforts and significant global interest, the business could not continue to operate without the protection of administration.”
“Our immediate priority and urgent focus,” Williams continued, “is to work alongside a credible interested party to secure immediate investment as part of a sale process […]”
“With that support, I would hope that the business can continue to operate and thrive.”
The road to commercial production
Founded in 2001, Metalysis owns the exclusive rights to the patented electrochemical Fray, Farthing and Chen (FFC) process for extracting alloys from oxides. According to the company, this method is more environmentally friendly than others on the market, and it was targeting a highly competitive price tag of $2.50/kg. Observers familiar with the materials at its current stage remarked upon their high quality, though they were also said to be expensive compared to others on the market.
In one of the most recent updates on the process, Metalysis announced that it had entered into “Generation 4” of development, meaning that its plant in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, was capable of producing a commercial scale of 10,000 – 100,000 kg+ (10s to 100s of tonnes) of powder. Following this milestone, the company confirmed that the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) had placed an order for titanium and aluminum-scandium products from its Gen4 line. It was also working on the FASTforge project with the nearby University of Sheffield for rapid, near-net shape part fabrication.
In time with its Gen4 commerical production development in 2018, Metalysis’ last funding round in 2018 raised the company £12 million. Some of this money was contributed by fund manager Neil Woodford through his Equity Income Fund which, following poor performance, is currently frozen to customer withdrawals for portfolio restructuring and asset sales. Prior to Metalysis’ insolvency, 0.04 per cent of the Woodford Equity Income Fund was held in Metalysis (On April 30, 2019), equating to approximately £1.7 million of the reported fund size of £4.3 billion.
With the last £12 million, it is estimated that Metalysis had raised a total of £92 million in investment through seven rounds of funding since 2001.
Metalysis seeks buyer
Across two sites, co-located in Rotherham, Metalysis employed a total of 60 staff. According to David Walsh, a reporter for the Sheffield Star, this number has now been cut by 37, following early warning signs of a 20% pay cut by all employees taken in March this year.
The company’s financial difficulties, according to administrators, predominantly stemmed from a recent investment round which had been extended. Since the announcement of insolvency was made by the company, administrators also say that it has generated a lot of interest from potential buyers, with early reports suggesting as many as three parties considering acquisition.
As insolvency practitioner Williams mentions in his statement, “we would encourage any parties with interest to contact the administrators.”
3D Printing Industry has approached both Metalysis and administrator Grant Thornton for further comments.
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Featured image shows Metalysis metal powder. Photo via Metalysis