A Seattle start-up called Modumetal could soon do for metal what 3-D printing has done for plastics, reports Fortune.

The company has developed a revolutionary process for "growing" metal that can be likened to how trees grow, according to CEO and co-founder Christina Lomasney.

“[The method is] the ideal way of making materials,” she explained. It's similar to the way that “Mother Nature has evolved [growing things] over eons."

The key to the method — and what makes it so innovative — is the use of nanotechnology to micromanage at the tiniest of scales the construction of their metal alloys, layer by layer. Essentially, the company has invented a new class of what it calls "nanolaminated materials," plywood-like metals with custom-made properties that are superior to conventional materials due to their nano-level detail.

Modumetal's corrosion-resistant metal laminates have already won over the oil and gas industry, which require longer-lasting materials for the construction of oil rigs. Car companies, the aviation industry, as well as bridge manufacturers could be next in line.

Corrosion-resistance isn't the only super-trait of these metals. They can also be made stronger and lighter than steel, and resistant to temperature changes too. For example, the Defense Department has approached the company with interest in the development of new armor that is both bulletproof and light enough to wear.

Perhaps the most attractive part of Modumetal's innovative technique, though, is that it's energy-efficient and cheap. Unlike with conventional methods for extracting and using metals like smelting, the Modumetal method requires only electricity. The company hopes its technique will usher in a new era, when historical material tradeoffs and accepted limitations are thrown out the door.

Modumetal's website showcases a number of videos that demonstrate the company's innovative method in visual detail.

Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

This company grows super-metals like trees
Assembled layer by layer using nanotechnology, new super-metals are corrosion-resistant, and stronger and lighter than steel.