The makers of a unique metal powder developed in Ottawa are feeling light on their feet after an $8-million cash injection from a federal government fund this week.
Equispheres, which develops an aluminum alloy powder for use in 3D printing and manufacturing, announced this week it’s receiving $8 million from Sustainable Development Technology Canada. The foundation, which has invested in Ottawa firms such as Giatec Scientific and GaN Systems, aims to support Canadian cleantech innovation.
The SDTC cash brings Equispheres’ total funding haul to more than $50 million. That figure includes grants, loans and equity funding from some well-heeled angels and industry giants such as Lockheed Martin.
The much ado is about a unique metal powder used in additive manufacturing – think of it as 3D printing but for fighter jets rather than plastic figurines. The powder is perfectly uniform and spherical, making it the ideal substance for manufacturing lightweight but sturdy metal objects.
“The parts that are made from our powder are much more consistent and therefore they can be made lighter,” says Equispheres CEO Kevin Nicholds.
This lightweight element gives the Equispheres powder its sustainable edge. Vehicles with parts made from this aluminum alloy will be much lighter on the road and more fuel-efficient than their predecessors, Nicholds explains. With widespread adoption, Equispheres could play a significant role in reducing the overall carbon footprint of the automotive industry.
Marketing hasn’t been a concern for Equispheres. Nicholds says the Ottawa-based company already has the ears and eyes of leading automotive and aerospace firms in the “closely watched” manufacturing industry – many of which came running to the company when they heard what its powder could do. Now, it’s just a matter of testing the company’s technology to ensure it lines up with customer demand.
Nicholds notes that while the company has strong IP protection on its unique powder, success isn’t settled. There are billions of dollars in investment pouring into the manufacturing industry today, and while Equispheres might be innovative, it’s by no means the only player clawing for market share.
“I'm always concerned,” Nicholds says of competition around the corner. “We've got a really nice opportunity to get into the market, and we don't want to take that for granted.”
The company currently employs roughly 30 people, most of whom work in Ottawa. Nicholds says that with the fresh funding the company is starting up the hiring machine again, looking to add more engineering talent in the coming months.