Metalysis is hiring again and is set to receive up to £10m to ramp up production of rare metal powders after being bought out of administration.
In a remarkable move, its new owner has made Metalysis’ base on the Advanced Manufacturing Park its global headquarters and is rebranding all worldwide operations with the name of the Rotherham firm.
Metalysis received £92m of investment after pioneering a fast, green and cheap method of making exotic powdered metals ideal for 3D printing. But it fell into administration in June after running out of cash. Some 47 staff were made redundant and two sites, including a factory in Wath, were closed.
It was snapped up by Power Resources Group a month later for just $2.5m.
Boss Ray Power said he planned to pump millions into the firm and create up to 200 jobs over the next three years.
And he was excited to be bringing work back to one of “the world's most prestigious manufacturing areas.”
He added: “It’s one of the most prestigious things we’ve had the opportunity to turn around. It’s a great opportunity to bring manufacturing into the UK.
“As a consequence of Brexit, Britain needs it. And the 3D printing sector is crying out for what we do.”
The group mines at three sites in Rwanda for tantalum, used in mobile phones, and niobium needed for high strength alloys. It also has mines in Guinea Bissau and Cornwall, operations in Bolivia and Slovenia and an oxide refinery in Macedonia. It was headquartered in Malta.
Mr Power said in some ways Metalysis was the “best bargain ever.” But it still needed serious money and he didn’t want to give anyone false hope.
He added: “Anything we didn’t spend on the acquisition gives us capital to have a fighting chance. Staff have been through a rough time. The reality of the Rotherham-Sheffield economy is people need to believe in the future.”
The old Metalysis tried to make money from powdered metals as well as the powder-producing ‘reactor’ units - consisting of a shipping container-sized molten salt bath and electrodes - and licensing the patent-protected technology.
The company had had good managers and it was a whisper away from making money when it went under, Mr Power said. It made an operating loss of £7.1m in the year ended March 2018 on revenues of £886,000.
But pursuing competing strategies had “paralysed them a bit.”
It was also five years ahead of its time and the 3D printing industry had evolved. Selling metal powders was now the firm’s focus.
Metalysis employs 17 but needs another eight now. The hope was that in three years it would have 200 staff, he added.
Adding it to the group meant it was possibly the only western company that owned the full rare metal supply chain. So it could take on China and prevent child labour and human rights abuses.
Metalysis, which was set up in 2001, grew out of research at Cambridge University. Its process has the potential to create an infinite number of new alloys.
Such was its potential, the company had visitors from 25 countries and talks with governments.
It had a venture with rare earth miner Mkango Resources and in March signed a contract with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, part of the Ministry of Defence.
It even won a prize from the European Space Agency for its potential for ‘terraforming’ - colonising other worlds.
Last year it received £12m from investors including Woodford Investment Management, Draper Esprit PLC, ETF Partners, Interogo Treasury and Hercules Capital of California.
In total, it received £92m from investors and planned to build a research centre up to 10 times the size of premises it opened in 2017 on the Advanced Manufacturing Park.
The first sign of trouble came when the 60 staff were asked to take a 20 per cent pay cut in March.
There were six offers for the collapsed business.