Imagen: European Space Agency
Titanium is a metal that has a high cost but is also basic for many industries. Its natural properties of high strength and lightness make it a perfect material for industry sectors such as aeronautics and medical, among many others such as defense or construction.
Since it is a high-cost material, it is not surprising that 3D printing has focused part of its research on this metal, since this innovative process can replace subtraction manufacturing with more sustainable manufacturing.
There are different technologies that process titanium. The most commonly used uses metal powder, in powder bed or projected by direct deposition, which melts and consolidates by the action of a laser (L-pbF) or an electron beam (E-pbF). There are also Additive Manufacturing technologies that can deposit titanium in the form of wire or wire, which is melted by electric arc (WAAM), or electron beam (EBAM).
Other technologies use a mixture of metal powder with polymer binder that facilitates deposition and must be removed to achieve fully densified parts.
The properties of titanium: its applications and benefits in industrial 3D printing
As we have said, the most outstanding properties of titanium are its great mechanical resistance and its low density that makes it a very light material. This great combination of properties, together with excellent corrosion resistance, make titanium and its alloys a highly valued material in several industrial sectors, such as aeronautics, medical, aerospace…
In terms of additive manufacturing, titanium and its alloys present a high potential for both the manufacture of parts and the repair of elements. Next, we see why titanium is such a prized material in these sectors.
- Its exceptional strength and lightness is maintained in titanium 3D printing designs, enhanced by the possibility of topological optimization.
- It has unique biocompatibility properties, making it a reference metal in its use in the medical sector, for example, in the production of prostheses.
- It is resistant to water and corrosion.
Titanium 3D printing for the medical sector
In recent years, technological research and innovation have advanced a lot in the health sector, especially in terms of medical prostheses and implants. Additive manufacturing is one of these innovations that this sector has been implementing, to position itself as a great solution to make all types of medical prostheses.
The medical sector needs many of the aspects provided by 3D printing, such as, for example, the possibility of making prosthesis designs in reduced times, individually for each patient and allowing complex designs to be produced.
If to these capabilities offered by additive manufacturing, we add the properties of titanium, the results are very remarkable for professionals in the medical sector, since they are able to obtain prostheses tailored to each patient in record time, and with all the reliability of a biocompatible material, lightweight, mechanically resistant and to corrosion, like titanium.
Titanium 3D printing for aerospace
The aerospace sector also presents many challenges that can find solutions in additive manufacturing with titanium. Since it is an industrial sector that requires lightweight, but highly resistant materials, titanium is the most valued metal in this field for its high specific strength and rigidity.
However, traditional manufacturing processes that go through the subtraction of material, entail a great waste of this valued metal, which means economic losses for the sector and for the ecosystem.
With additive manufacturing, material is no longer removed to obtain the part, but the necessary piece is created directly through 3D printing. This makes it possible to produce parts with much less raw material and in much less time. But, in addition, it is also a way to achieve complex designs that exponentially increase the beneficial properties of titanium. For example, lattice designs (lattice structures), or those that resemble designs present in nature (biomimetic structures), which can be made by 3D printing, allow to create lighter pieces and achieve optimized and personalized macroscopic properties.
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