Smithers Rapra: What are some of the largest challenges currently facing the TiO2 industry?
Mark Tomlinson: This is an interesting time for the industry, pricing and demand seem to have turned a corner as supply tightens and businesses are able to raise their noses from the grindstone and look to the horizon. At times like these, operators need to consider adding volume or adding value. Players who have weathered the recent storms in better condition have the opportunity to move first, and we are seeing a round of investments and divestments depending on market perceptions and longer term strategies.
Consolidation should lead to efficiencies of scale for commodity products, but from the Metalysis perspective as a niche, specialist producer, moves to increase added value through the use of technology and/or vertical integration are the most interesting. Investment tied to the needs of the customer should lead to increased revenues by adding value in ways that can strengthen supply chains and secure future cooperation.
Smithers Rapra: What are some of the best innovations, and/or collaborations, going on in the industry, right now?
Mark Tomlinson: Well, it’s my job to tell people that Metalysis is the most exciting technology in the titanium industry right now, so forgive me if I start there. We have the possibility to help usher in a significant growth in additive manufacturing which could transform the way materials like metallic titanium are used in everyday life. However, I’m not going to claim that we will turn ilmenite into the new hematite just yet.
Elsewhere, there are exciting developments in nanoscale structures that could open new applications in functional materials for uses like self-cleaning surfaces, pollution capture or localised atmospheric control. Another fascinating sujbect are TiO2 structures that use sunlight to generate hydrogen from water, or combine atmospheric CO2 and water to make methane for truly renewable fuel manufacture.
Smithers Rapra: What are you most looking forward to hearing at the conference, this fall in Cleveland?
Mark Tomlinson: The usefulness of metallic powders is highly dependent on their physical and analytical makeup. The product from the Metalysis process can be tightly controlled by a combination of process parameters and oxide feedstock engineering, so I am very interested to hear about work on oxide chemistry, size and morphology. I’m also looking forward to learning more about general industry trends, and of course, to having some interesting conversations.