Sponsored By

Thixomat shifts business model post patent

One year after its core patent expired, Thixomat has reinvented itself as Thixomat Technologies LLC, eschewing its former business model of revenue generated by royalty payments from licensees to instead supply molded magnesium parts and new technologies, including a high-strength magnesium sheet product.

Tony Deligio

February 15, 2011

2 Min Read
Thixomat shifts business model post patent

Wearing a red-white-and-blue pin on his lapel that read, "Lighten Up" in large letters with a smaller "I'll show you how" below, Stephen LeBeau, Thixomat president, told PlasticsToday that the company began planning for its post-thixomolding-patent future in 2009. A metallurgist by trade, LeBeau said his company was paid royalties for 20 years on its licensed thixomolding technology, with 400 machines running the process in 13 countries.

LeBeau's new plan consists of three primary businesses: Thixomat Inc., thixomolding developer; nanoMAG LLC, inventor of the new magnesium sheet technology; and Molded Magnesium Products LLC, a custom magnesium molder. The last business has already set up a plant in Michigan and is running magnesium parts from two machines: 280 and 720 tons. Lebeau said the eventual goal is to build up to 10 machines with annual turnover ranging from $10-$20 million. That business is a 50:50 joint venture with Mag-Tec Casting Corp. (Jackson, MI) and will be led by Bill Wilson, who was named general manager.

The company's nanoMAG business is built around work it undertook with the University of Michigan on what it calls TTMP (thixomolding plus thermal mechanical processing). By taking a molded magnesium ingot and "heating and beating" it into a sheet, the company is able to get the grain size of the metal below 1 micron, resulting in strong, lightweight sheet that can be formed. LeBeau said that pound for pound, nanoMAG bests steel, aluminum, and magnesium in strength-to-weight ratio. According to LeBeau, the resulting sheet has 200% higher strength and toughness over regular magnesium while providing the strength of carbon steel sheet at one-fourth the mass.

The company is targeting the aerospace market, among others, and introduced the concept at the AeroCon show in Anaheim. Thixomat has some samples in for testing at Tier One automotive suppliers, and is also investigating the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) market. The company already has a contract with the U.S. Army for multilayer structures that encapsulate ceramic into the magnesium alloy. "The defense department buys a lot of stuff and pays a lot of money but it's small quantities," LeBeau said.

That business was also awarded a $100,000 NSF grant to support research work on resorbable biomedical implants for orthopedic applications. In this instance, metal structures that support healing in orthopedic procedures but must eventually be removed would be replaced by bioabsorbable magnesium components. The company is working with Biomet Inc. (Warsaw, IN), a maker of resorbable polymer implants, on this project targeting applications in ligament fixation, craniofacial implants, and small-bone implants.

The company also announced a two-year joint R&D program focused on the creation of new magnesium alloys with the Israeli firm, Dead Sea Magnesium Ltd. (Beer-Sheva).  The $1 million project has received financial support from the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like