Titanium matches steel’s strength but is much lighter. It is also corrosion-resistant due to its surface-level oxide coating. Titanium’s physical properties make it an ideal common choice for a wide range of end applications.
3D Printing Applications
Titanium powder can be used to 3D print for a wide variety of components. According to Bugatti, its brake caliper is the world’s largest functional titanium component produced using 3D printing (2018). The below Bugatti press release explains the process:
It takes a total of 45 hours to print a brake caliper. During this time, titanium powder is deposited layer by layer. With each layer, the four lasers melt the titanium powder into the shape defined for the brake caliper. The material cools immediately and the brake caliper take shape. The total number of layers required is 2,213. Following the completion of the final layer, the remaining titanium powder which had not melted is removed from the chamber, cleaned and preserved for reuse in a closed loop. What remains in the chamber is a brake caliper complete with supporting structure which maintains its shape until it has received stabilizing heat treatment and reached its final strength.
Titanium is increasingly used in offshore applications for a number of reasons. First, highly disruptive failures of stainless steel and copper based alloys have created safety and production issues in recent years. Second, titanium prices have remained at economic levels in recent decades. Third, as titanium use has increased over time, more information is now available to design engineers related to specific use for the metal.
Specific offshore uses include fire systems, high pressure heat exchangers and riser applications. Titanium is also commonly used in desalination plants.
Due to Titanium’s unique physical properties, it is also used in a wide range of other industrial and consumer applications. The aerospace industry is the largest user of titanium. Specifically, titanium is used on airframes, landing gear, jet engines, APU’s, and fasteners. For engines specifically, titanium is generally the material of choice due to its ability to withstand up to 1,100 degrees F (593 C).
The SR-71 “Blackbird” was one of the first aircrafts to use titanium alloys extensively in its structure. The blackbird reached speeds of up to 3,500 km/hr (3 times the speed of sound) which put titanium’s strength and durability to good use. Today, the A380 Airbus uses roughly 70 tons of titanium for its structure and fittings.
The rapidly growing space industry relies on titanium for a range of applications. Titanium was used in Mercury and Apollo programs and continues to be used today in solid rocket booster cases, guidance control pressure vessels and other applications.
The medical community first started using titanium back in the 1940s when dentists began using it for dental procedures. Over time, titanium has become widely used for surgical instruments, prosthetics (plates, pins, rods), replacement heart valves, hearing aids, false eye implants, spinal fusion cages and a range of other medical uses.
Other Titanium Applications
Titanium’s strong, lightweight, durable properties make it an ideal choice for a range of other applications. High end bikes often are built on titanium frames. Eyeglass frames, jewelry and wrist watches are widely available products. Tennis rackets, lacrosse sticks, skis, baseball bats and golf clubs are examples of sporting equipment that are built using titanium.
Apple computer sells a titanium laptop computer and markets its light weight. Additionally, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain is sheathed in pure titanium sheet.