October 9, 2019 @ 14:53 by Steven Hugill
A metals sector operator has started construction work on a £10 million North East development it says will strengthen its foothold in an £8 billion global market.
Liberty says its new powder metals development facility – backed by finance from Tees Valley Combined Authority – will expand its reach in specialist metals and the emerging materials market for 3D printing.
The hub will be based at the Materials Processing Institute, on the outskirts of Middlesbrough.
Bosses say the development has been designed to achieve the highest-quality stainless steel and superalloy powders, helping Liberty enhance its status in an international market estimated to be worth £8 billion a year.
The site will be fitted with a vacuum induction inert gas atomiser, which officials say will allow Liberty – part of the GFG Alliance of industrial companies – to develop a new generation of powdered steels capable of overcoming traditional barriers to 3D printing.
They say the investment will enhance Liberty’s position in the supply chain for precision steel components used in rapidly-changing and advanced sectors, such as aerospace, automotive, energy and specialist industrial equipment.
There are also plans to install a range of sieving, blending, packaging and analytical equipment at the site.
Atomising Systems Ltd and partner Consarc Engineering have designed the equipment, while Teesside-based engineer K-Home International is managing installation work.
Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, said the new facility is a coup for Teesside.
He said: “The start of construction is a significant milestone in a project that will put our region at the forefront of a revolutionary new industry.
“We invested £4.6 million in this ground-breaking project because we could see just how important the high-grade metal powders Liberty will produce will be.
“By investing in new technologies, we’re staying ahead of the curve and creating the jobs for future industries.”
Chris McDonald, chief executive at the Materials Processing Institute, added: “Advanced materials development is a core area of research at the Institute.
“This investment is an example of the benefits of partnerships and collaborations between industry and the Institute.”
Dr Simon Pike, general manager for Liberty Powder Metals, said the organisation has benefited from terrific local support.
He added: “We are grateful to our partners for the work they have done to reach this stage.
“Finance from Tees Valley Combined Authority has been critical in making the project a reality and I look forward to continuing all our partnerships to make Teesside a global-leading centre of expertise for powder metal production.”
Commissioning will take place from December, with the aim of producing powders for sale from March 2020.