Becoming industry-ready with Titomic

Titomic

Herbert Koeck, CEO of Titomic.

Manufacturers’ Monthly speaks to Herbert Koeck, CEO of Titomic, to get his thoughts on his first few months at the helm of the company and what to expect from the additive manufacturing specialist in 2022. 

In March 2021, AMPOWER (a German industrial additive manufacturing consultancy) conducted its annual report, highlighting the maturity index of additive manufacturing technologies from across the globe. This report identified that Titomic, an Australian metal additive manufacturing company, is on the verge of making their signature cold spray technology industry-ready. 

“Titomic’s cold spray technology is estimated to be ready for industrial use in less than two years. We’re at the edge of making a breakthrough into industrial production,” Titomic CEO Herbert Koeck said. 

In this regard, Titomic has already overcome technical barriers such as speed and size, and the ability to mix powders and manufacture multiple material parts. 

A global executive hailing from companies like HP and 3D Systems, Koeck is new to Titomic, attracted to the business by its comparative fundamental capabilities. 

“In working with 3D Systems, their new machine could print up to 500mm, as a cube (500mm x 500mm x 500mm). And that kind of a build could take up to 14 days,” Koeck said. “Titomic can print metal parts which are 9m x 6m and they can do it in two or three days. We’re making breakthroughs in areas where other companies who do laser beam powder bed fusion simply can’t compete. 

Titomic
This has led to plans to produce parts and offer services through establishing a foothold in the US and Europe in 2022.

“The Kinetic Fusion technology is much more sustainable than laser beam powder bed fusion, because we don’t need to use a high-energy laser beam to melt the particles – we connect the particles with the kinetic energy which comes from the speed.” 

This technology has gained a lot of traction both in Australia and internationally in 2021. In August, Titomic received a $2.325 million Modern Manufacturing Initiative grant from the federal government to manufacture and commercialise low-emission titanium space vehicle demonstrator parts. This will be achieved by using high-performance coatings for radiation shielding and sustainable green titanium structures, which uses a lot less energy. 

Koeck named some other recent successful projects the business undertook through the course of 2021.  

“We ran through a successful capital raise process where we could raise $9 million, which we closed two weeks ago,” Koeck said. 

“Just this week, we also got an additional international strategic investor, a company called Repkon Production Technology in Turkey, which invested $2.5mn into us. This is a confidence boost for the technology and product platform. It’s also a nice confirmation of the work we are doing.” 

Identifying industrial use cases 

The key stage that Titomic has entered into now is building industrial use cases in preparation to branch out into manufacturing on a larger scale. However, Koeck says that this could come with further challenges. 

“The beauty of 3D printing is everything is possible. However, the many opportunities with 3D printing can also present a challenge,” Koeck said. “The danger is because so many things are possible with the technology, we’re going to find everything which is potentially a fit for the technology – and we need to narrow it down to the exact customer use cases we want to chase, otherwise you might risk running too thin with everything.” 

To do this, Titomic is currently focusing on: 

  • which applications are the best fit for the technology; 
  • which industries are most suitable for end use; 
  • identifying the barriers of entry; 
  • protecting value from an IP perspective; and 
  • boosting revenue quickly. 

This year, the use cases Titomic have identified include tooling, radiation shielding, repair services and specialty applications like isogrid structures. Identifying these has sparked joint venture discussions with companies such as Triton in the US, Nèos in the UK and several other US defence providers. 

Another challenge the additive manufacturing company faces is validation for these specific areas. 

“We are crossing the boundaries, yet at the end of the day we are offering a manufacturing process for certain parts which haven’t been done before, and a lot of these things have to be validated,” Koeck said. 

What is Titomic’s strategy in overcoming such problems? To prepare for the worst and hope for the best, Koeck said. 

“There is no guarantee that you can master all the problems out there,” he said. “But I think if you prepare for certain hiccups, and if you have a backup plan in place, that will take away some of the problems. 

“If none of the plans are working out, then hopefully you have a management structure and processes in place which allow you to act fast, and then a nimble way to overcome the problems.” 

Titomic
Titomic’s Kinetic Fusion technology has gained a lot of traction both in Australia and internationally in 2021.

Ahead of the curve 

Koeck has a strong belief that for Titomic to grow and expand into international markets, it needs closer proximity to their targeted customers. This has led to plans to produce parts and offer services through establishing a foothold in the US and Europe in 2022. 

In addition to these global opportunities and with the potential to produce valuable resources and raw materials in the country, such as metal ore and titanium, Titomic has a positive outlook for the future. 

I think the company will do everything possible for example to get into the manufacturing of our own powders in the future. And by doing so, use these available resources,” Koeck said. 

While many Australian companies are just beginning to consider implementing additive manufacturing into their production processes, Koeck sees this junior level of maturity as a positive opportunity to help educate these businesses. The impact of COVID-19 on manufacturers presents another unexpected opportunity around this. 

“As a result of COVID-19, all the supply chain issues will force more companies to rethink their approach towards manufacturing,” Koeck said. “If additive manufacturing can bring something good to them, that’s an opportunity at the end of the day.” 

Titomic is also mindful that its knowledge of additive manufacturing can be applied to aid manufacturers who are on a journey to discover how the technology can eventually be seamlessly incorporated into their own processes. 

“Many times, parts are compared on a path price comparison and the manufacturing doesn’t show any advantage on that side,” Koeck said. “But if you look at the whole manufacturing process, we should take all the tooling costs in place. If you add in all the costs it takes to go to market – which can be many months in some cases – and then bring in additive manufacturing, suddenly the picture looks completely different. 

“That level of education and thinking is something we can’t expect that all our customers have but is something we can work with them on. It’s a process that takes time.” 

Koeck also says it is important to understand that for any production of parts, there is a sweet spot that depends on the complexity of the part, materials needed and the volume of those materials. This represents a curve where additive manufacturing is more suited to lower volumes, while mass production is better suited to higher volumes. 

“That’s a thinking we need to instil and help customers to understand that it’s not that one process replaces the other, but one process complements the other in case you have a lower or higher volume of output,” Koeck said. 

“There is an optimal process to produce these things depending on the output volume. The winning companies will be the ones who have that choice.”