If you were already into titanium for personal items like glasses, artwork and jewelry, then you may be surprised to know that it is changing the future of the aerospace industry in a major way. Titanium is fast becoming ‘the metal of the millennium’, since it is a 100% recyclable eco metal and it boasts great strength, despite its ultra-light weight. Titanium also lends itself to 3D printing, which further increases its use in airplane components and frames. How can printed titanium give rise to safer, lighter, more reliable airplanes?
Why Is Titanium Suitable For 3D Printing?
There are various titanium grades available for 3D printing, but the most commonly used is an alloy known as Ti64. Pure titanium can also be used if desired, with the product being designed (be it sheets, tubing or bolts) determining the ideal material. Printing titanium can get around the difficulties associated with machining this material. When titanium is machined with a CNC machine, the heat produced is stored in the CNC tool, which could cause the latter to wear out. By printing titanium, companies can evade heat-related issues and produce only the amount you need, thus reducing wastage of this valuable resource.
Top Uses For Titanium In Airplanes
Currently, printed titanium is being used in everything from gas turbines to jet engines, and even airframes. Recently, aerospace supplier Liebherr-Aerospace & Transportation SAS began using 3D printing to create landing gear brackets for the Airbus A350 XWB. The result was a weight reduction of 29%, without sacrificing an iota of sturdiness. Boeing is also relying on 3D printing to produce large titanium structural components, saving between 25% and 50% of this valued metal than when forging processes are used. Smaller parts such as brackets are also being printed, although increasingly larger components are being printed to save on time, cost and weight.
The Benefits Of 3D Printed Titanium For The Aerospace Industry
A global forecast into the 3D printing filament market indicates that metals such as titanium will be the predicted fastest growing type between 2020 and 2025. NASA, meanwhile, has already announced its intention to 3D print metal components for over 80% of its rocket engines. A third use of printed titanium and other metals lies in rapid prototyping – the fast fabrication of a physical part, model or assembly. The apparent benefits of this technology are vast. For starters, 3D printing using titanium will enable the industry to print out full parts without the need to put together several components. Parts can be printed as needed, which will result in improved overall productivity.
Titanium is a 100% recyclable material that can be printed for use in a wide array of sectors. In the aerospace industry, it is already being used both to strengthen frame structures, and for various engine and structural components. Its use is predicted to skyrocket over the next few years, with 3D printing providing the added bonus of cutting costs and speeding up production.