Titanium is a metal that is extracted from the element of the same name, which grows naturally and abundantly, though not in pure form. Titanium boasts natural qualities of ductility, heat transference, low density, strength and high corrosion resistance. These qualities lend it to many applications, particularly those related to the aerospace and marine industries, automotive manufacturing, surgery and dentistry, racing sports, jewelry making and aquariums. To capitalize upon its qualities, titanium is frequently alloyed with other metals, like steel, iron or aluminum, to create materials with hybrid qualities.
Most often, titanium is extracted from where it is found in mineral deposits using either the Kroll method or the Hunter method, both which involve using magnesium to reduce titanium tetrachloride down to a sponge, which is a highly porous, raw ore. After it is reduced, the sponge is melted or pressed into blocks to be fabricated. Using other methods, titanium ore may instead be processed into powder, mesh, sheet, granules, foil or rod. No matter its form, ore can fabricated into a variety of parts and shapes, including wire, tubing and bars. The most common methods of titanium fabrication include welding, flat rolling and hot or cold forming. After fabrication, titanium products may undergo any number of secondary processes, such as pickling, blasting, laser cutting or anodizing.
Pickling is a chemical process by which oxide film is washed from the surface of titanium products; blasting uses abrasive particles or mechanical grit to blast from large titanium products like billets or ingots. Mechanical grit leaves behind a fine layer of dust, but it can be removed during pickling. Laser cutting is a hot cutting process that uses laser technology to slice thin gauge titanium products to close tolerances. Anodizing is metal treatment; using electricity, a technician covers or coats a metallic surface with a decorative or protective layer of oxide that will not fade like a pigment or die. Read More…
Titanium alloys are arranged on a grade scale of one to 38 by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Grades one through five are non-alloys, while the are fused with smaller or larger amounts of elements like zirconium, iron, vanadium, silicon, palladium, aluminum, tin, ruthenium, nickel, niobium and molybdenum. They are also organized into main three categories: Alpha, Alpha Beta and Beta titanium. Alpha titanium, is most often alloyed with aluminum and tin, is ductile, with high notch toughness, good mechanical properties at cryogenic temperatures and the highest corrosion resistance. It has low to medium strength and it is non-heat treatable but wieldable, unlike Alpha Beta titanium, which has medium to high strength and is both heat treatable and wieldable.
Even though Alpha Beta is stronger, Alpha titanium is still strong enough for use in the manufacturing of chemical processing equipment and airplane parts. Alpha Beta is used to fabricate aircrafts, prosthetic devices and marine hardware. The toughest of the group is Beta titanium, is fully heat treatable and wieldable. Very dense, it displays a high formability that makes it ideal for fabrication of aircraft parts that need to maintain their shape and structure, even under the most extreme pressure.
While the process of extracting and preparing titanium is fairly time-consuming and expensive, once it is done, it is relatively easy to manipulate and very useful, which is why it is so popular despite its cost. Titanium is so useful, in fact, that researchers are searching for and studying more ways to use it. Titanium is lightweight, corrosion resistant, erosion resistant, stress resistant and pitting resistant.
Carrying such a high degree of simultaneous strength and lightness, it’s no wonder titanium parts are found everywhere. The biomedical industry relies on titanium bars and wires for catheter and orthopedic device production. In the automotive industry, titanium plates make up parts of rocker arms, connecting rods, valve springs, steering gears, exhaust systems and drive shafts. Since titanium is so resistant to corrosion, it is used to make dental instruments, surgical instruments and a variety of prosthesis. Titanium rods are, for example, used in scoliosis surgery to support a surgically straightened spine.
Titanium, titanium oxide and titanium alloys are also used in spacecrafts, missiles, jet engines, semiconductor and battery wires, orthopedics, sporting goods equipment, petroleum handling, chemical handling, paint, paper, cement, agri-food tubing, toothpaste, plastics and gem fabrication.