Titanium is a strong and lightweight refractory metal. Despite being as strong as steel, titanium is about 40 percent lighter in weight, which, along with its resistance to cavitation and erosion, makes it an essential structural metal for aerospace engineers.
Alloys of titanium are critical to the aerospace industry but, due to their numerous unique properties, are also used in medical, chemical and military applications, as well as in sporting goods. Alloys containing titanium are known for their high strength, lightweight, and exceptional corrosion resistance.
Having a low modulus of elasticity means that titanium is not also very flexible, but returns to its original shape after bending, resulting in its importance to shape memory alloys. Titanium is non-magnetic and biocompatible (non-toxic, non-allergenic), which has led to its increasing use in the medical field. With ever advancing technologies, applications for titanium in daily life are expanding rapidly, but still, America and Japan are the leaders in this field.
Titanium alloys are used in aircraft, armor plating, naval ships, spacecraft, and missiles. The Ministry of National Defense (MND), announced that the Unites States had agreed to transfer new military technologies to Taiwan to bolster the country’s domestic defense industry. According to reports, Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control department will transfer technology and training for Taiwan’s defense industry to produce its own aerospace and military-grade titanium, as part of a deal that will also include six sets of Patriot Advanced Capability – 3 (PAC-3) missiles and upgrade kits for PAC-2 missiles. The titanium production technology will allow Taiwan to bolster its armoring capabilities as well as strengthen the effectiveness of various weapon’s platforms currently under development.
Titanium combines high strength and corrosion resistance with low weight. It is as strong as steel but is only 50% of the weight of steel. But it is some ten times more expensive than steel and it is difficult and expensive to make titanium products.
Titanium has become an increasingly popular material to use across the military and defense industry, with the material offering a substantial number of benefits across the majority of vehicles and structures both areas use. With the advent of additive manufacturing with metals, its utility will only grow.
Preference and usage of titanium and its alloys in military and aerospace applications stems from its high strength and exemplary reliability attributes when compared to alternate structural metals including alloys of steel and aluminum. Titanium is as strong as steel but half its weight; it is also twice as strong as aluminum yet nearly equal in weight.
Titanium’s ability to be fabricated and machined enables critical parts for increased armor protection against ballistic threats to be manufactured, while its high mass efficiency and relative low cost provide lighter weight structural integrity for aerospace and NASA space program applications.
Titanium alloys are used in aircraft, armor plating, naval ships, spacecraft, and missiles. For these applications, titanium alloyed with aluminum, vanadium, and other elements is used for a variety of components, including critical structural parts, firewalls, landing gear, exhaust ducts (helicopters), and hydraulic systems.
Titanium has been used in aircraft for nearly 60 years now, especially in military aircraft. Forty-two percent of the structural weight of the Lockheed Martin F22 Raptor, which entered service in the US at the end of 2005, consists of titanium. And even back in the ‘60s, some 93 percent of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird’s structural weight consisted of titanium alloys. It is also used in the Lockheed Martin JSF (accounting for around a third of the aircraft by weight), and in the Airbus A350 and A380 commercial airliners.
Due to its strength-to-weight ratio, titanium is being used in military and aerospace applications to reduce weight and increase durability in extreme conditions. The titanium also exhibits exceptional elevated temperature performance and offers overall superior corrosion resistance.
Titanium alloys generally exhibit superior heat transfer performance as well, and the fatigue and fracture toughness necessary for military applications-from naval seawater piping to battlefield tanks and armor protection to weaponry, missiles and aircraft structural components. Standards for tank armor, for example, have recently included the application of titanium-tungsten alloys for battlefield protection.
Taking advantage of titanium’s superior strength-to-weight ratio, composites of titanium and fiberglass are used in the manufacture of rotor blades for the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Increased use of composites has led to a similar increase of titanium in military applications due to its better galvanic and thermal expansion and conductivity compatibility characteristics with carbon composites, for example.
Titanium is appealing for ocean engineering applications because of its excellent corrosion resistance feature. Titanium is also formidable in its resistance to corrosion by both water and chemical media. It does this by forming a thin layer of titanium dioxide (TiO2) on its surface that is extremely difficult for these materials to penetrate. Therefore a great many of titanium products have been applied to the desalination of sea water, as well as for vessels and exploration of ocean resources.
The lack of corrosion from sea water has meant that titanium has become increasingly popular in the exterior of many submarines and other naval vessels, with the material being used in the likes of exhaust stack liners, submarine ball valves, fire pumps and heat exchangers, as well as the majority of a submarine’s piping and cooling systems.
Before titanium made its way throughout the navy, the primary material used in heat exchangers was a copper-nickel blend, which needed to be maintained and replaced regularly. Since being replaced, this has meant that the lifespan of various submarine components has been drastically improved, which has improved cost-efficiency across the navy.
The main ores used in the primary production of titanium are ilmenite, which accounts for about 90% of production, and rutile, which accounts for the remaining 10 percent. In the first step of the Kroll process, titanium ore is crushed and heated with coking coal in a chlorine atmosphere to produce titanium tetrachloride (TiCl4). The chloride is then captured and sent through a condenser, which produces a titanium chloride liquid that is more 99 percent pure. The titanium tetrachloride is then sent directly into vessels containing molten magnesium. In order to avoid oxygen contamination, this is made inert through the addition of argon gas.
During the consequent distillation process, which can take a number of days, the vessel is heated to 1832°F (1000°C). The magnesium reacts with the titanium chloride, stripping the chloride and producing elemental titanium and magnesium chloride. The fibrous titanium that is produced as a result is referred to as titanium sponge. To produce titanium alloys and high purity titanium ingots, titanium sponge can be melted with various alloying elements using an electron beam, plasma arc or vacuum-arc melting.
Although titanium is the fourth most common metal elements in the earth’s crust (behind aluminum, iron, and magnesium), production of titanium metal is extremely sensitive to contamination, particularly by oxygen, which accounts for its relatively recent development and high cost.
Spirit AeroSystems announced its researchers are working to commercialize a new proprietary method for shaping titanium raw material at elevated temperatures in the fabrication of aerospace components. The Joule FormTM process, which Spirit has trademarked, provides the company a competitive advantage in the use of titanium, a highly desirable material thanks to its combination of strength and light weight.
“This is an emerging manufacturing improvement for shaping metallic plate products that can replace more expensive techniques, such as die forgings and extrusions,” said Kevin Matthies, Spirit’s senior vice president, Global Fabrication. “Implementing this new technology will allow advanced production for parts such as those for propulsion systems. No one else in the industry has a comparable high-tech and cost-saving solution for this application.”
The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced in March 2018 that its Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (officially abbreviated to Dstl) had, in cooperation with the University of Sheffield, developed a radical new method of producing titanium parts. Dstl has so far invested almost £30 000 in this research and development programme.
The new technology is called FAST-forge and cuts the number of steps required to manufacture titanium parts from 40 to just two. The technology has been proved at the laboratory scale and a pilot plant (described by the UK MoD as “large-scale”) has been completed and will soon start operation. The pilot plant has been jointly funded by the Dstl and the UK subsidiary of US group Kennametal Manufacturing. (Dstl and Kennametal have previously cooperated on the development and manufacture of ceramic armour.)
“FAST-forge is a disruptive technology that enables near net shape components to be produced from powder or particulate in two simple processing steps,” explained project head Dr Nick Weston. “Such components have mechanical properties equivalent to forged product. For titanium alloys, FAST-forge will provide a step change in the cost of components, allowing use in automotive applications such as powertrain and suspension systems.”
“We’re really excited about this innovation, which could cut the production cost of titanium parts by up to 50%,” highlighted Dstl Materials Science principal scientist Matthew Lunt. “With this reduction in cost, we could use titanium in submarines, where corrosion resistance would extend the life, or for light-weight requirements like armoured vehicles.”
Titanium has excellent material properties, but its high cost has historically limited its use to high-value applications in aerospace. Now that metal 3D printing is becoming increasingly recognized as a viable manufacturing method, the technology is making titanium more available to industries like medical, automotive and motorsports.
Titanium can be a difficult metal to work with, particularly when it comes to machining. For one thing, titanium has a low thermal conductivity. This means that when it is machined, for example with a CNC machine, the heat generated is stored in the CNC tool – which could cause the tool to wear out quickly. Additionally, since machining involves the cutting and removal of material, the process can lead to a lot of material waste being produced. Many companies are, as a result, looking for better alternatives to produce titanium parts.
Metal 3D printing is proving to be that viable alternative. With metal 3D printing, the most commonly used grade of titanium is the alloy, Ti6Al4V (Ti64). In addition to Ti64, it’s also possible to 3D print with pure titanium.
For aerospace applications, using titanium to 3D print parts often helps to lower the buy-to-fly ratio. The term, which comes from the aerospace industry, refers to the correlation between the weight of the amount of material originally purchased and the weight of the finished part. In conventional manufacturing, for example, titanium aircraft components may have a buy-to-fly ratio between 12:1 and 25:1. This means that 12-25kg of raw material is required to produce 1kg of parts. In this scenario, up to 90% of the material is machined away.
Metal 3D printing can reduce this ratio for titanium components to between 3:1 and 12:1. This is because metal 3D printers typically use only the necessary amount of material needed to create a part, generating only a little waste from support structures. For an expensive material like titanium, the cost-savings from this reduced buy-to-fly ratio can be quite significant.
The three metal 3D printing methods most commonly used to create titanium parts are Direct Energy Deposition (DED), Electron Beam Melting (EBM) and Selective Laser Melting (SLM). With the arrival of 3D metal printing, the forming of titanium has gotten much easier where small scale parts could be easily printed with selective laser sintering additive processes and larger structures can more economically be made with Laser wire additive manufacturing systems. The former can create can create massive near-net shaped parts out of titanium, drastically reducing the machining and fabrication times of large titanium parts and greatly reducing scrap rates.
Titanium Market size is forecast to reach $7,608 million by 2025, after growing at a CAGR of 4.7% during 2020-2025, owning to growing application of titanium in various industries such as automotive, construction, aerospace and so on. Numerous applications of titanium alloys led by their low thermal expansion and co-efficient fire resistance properties, escalate the market demand hugely. Due to its nontoxic nature it is used in many medical equipment such as hip balls, hip balls, sockets and dental implants.
Titanium circuits can also be used in applications that involve heating elements, weighing, load cells and force measurement, and can be used for flow measurement, fluid pressure and temperature measurement and strain gauge applications. Moreover, various advantages offered by titanium such as heat resistance and fuel efficiency are expected to drive a massive demand from the aircraft manufacturing industry in the coming years.
In the world of chemical processing, titanium pipes have been found to be very cost-effective methods of resisting damaging corrosion in the process line and is very often specified for highly-corrosive industrial applications and frequently specified in processes which leads to increase in the usage of pipes which is directly proportional to the market growth.
Titanium Market Challenges Higher cost of titanium
Titanium offers performance as well as mass saving benefits in automotive components subjected to reciprocating and suspension loads and in components subjected to extreme temperatures and gradients. However, the extensive use of titanium is hampered by the high cost of the raw material and the special handling that is needed. With advances in extraction/fabrication techniques and ever-increasing gasoline prices, the advantage of using lightweight materials such as aluminum, magnesium, and titanium in automobiles continues to increase. The major drawback for titanium, much more so than the other light metals, is high cost. However, innovative extraction and fabrication approaches are leading to decreased cost.
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the global economy and lowered equity valuations, in addition to disrupting global supply chains and workforce participation. Quarantines and “stay in place” orders, the timing and length of containment and eradication solutions, travel restrictions, absenteeism by infected workers, labor shortages, or other disruptions to supply chain or customers have adversely impacted the sales and operating results and has resulted in some production delays in titanium market. In addition, from the demand perspective also, due to the grounding of airplanes, construction and manufacturing industries being in limbo contributed to a drop in fresh orders for Titanium mill products as customers are waiting to get a deeper understanding of the full impact of COVID-19 on their respective markets.
Titanium Market Segment Analysis
Plate held the largest share in the titanium market in 2019 and is growing at a CAGR of 4.1% during the forecast period, owning wide usage of titanium plate in various applications, especially in the medical or orthopedic implant functions. Titanium plates are used in laptops for instance and is present in Apple laptops as well as Samsung for examples. Titanium sheets and plates are used in the skin and frame structure of aircraft ranging from high-speed military jets to large 747s. Titanium plates are also used around the moving parts of an aircraft and in aircraft propellers and engines.
Titanium plates and sheets have been used in panels for skyscrapers to museums. Memorials and statues have also been created using titanium panels. Titanium plates have also been used to provide support for buildings. Titanium plates are used in protective armor, tanks, vests, helmets and personnel carriers. These protective applications are used by both the military and police departments across the world.
As a biocompatible metal, titanium is handled in large doses but provides minimal impact on the human body. Although it’s ingested daily, it’s not always absorbed. The medical industry uses the titanium plates for the human body because it presents a similar density to bone and used for joint replacements, hip replacements or knee replacement purposes. A titanium plate can also be used for sporting equipment. An example of how the titanium plate can be used for equipment includes golf club heads/drivers. The lightweight structure of the plate allows golfers (of all abilities) to hit the ball with ease, enhancing their overall performance
Titanium Market Segment Analysis – By Application
Aerospace is the dominant application for titanium market and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 4.3% through the forecast period. The demand for titanium in aerospace is growing as it has excellent compatibility with CFRP with respect to corrosiveness and coefficient of thermal expansion issues. For example, the amount of titanium used in the low fuel consumption aircraft A350XWB manufactured by Airbus S.A.S., where a large amount of CFRP is used, has grown to more than twice the amount used in conventional aircraft. The usage of titanium in aircraft can also increase that aircraft’s range while decreasing its fuel use. A lighter aircraft requires less fuel to fly, allowing for fewer refueling stops and subsequently longer time periods spent in continuous flight. Titanium is used for multiple areas of aircrafts such as Fuselage, Engines, compressors, fan blades, landing gear, flaps, spoilers, fuel tanks and so on.
Titanium Market Segment Analysis – By Grade
There are three different grades of titanium. The differing properties of these grades can have quite a significant impact on how it’s used. The first of these is 6AL-4V ELI, which is best known for its ability to withstand a large amount of heat and has primarily been used in the likes of aircraft turbines and jet engines. 6Al-6V-2Sn Ti, on the other hand, is typically seen in the likes of landing gear, airframes, ordnance components, and rocket cases. Lastly is Grade 5, which is the more common alloy seen across the aerospace niche, as it’s specifically treated to increase its strength and withstand a drastically high temperature level.
Ti 6Al-4V (Grade 5) held a significant share in the titanium market in 2019, and is growing at a CAGR of 4.0% during the forecast period. Ti 6Al-4V, or Grade 5 titanium is known as the “workhorse” of the titanium alloys, and is the most commonly used of all titanium alloys. It accounts for around 52% of total titanium revenue across the world. Grade 5 usability lies in its many benefits as it can be heat treated to increase its strength, can be used in welded construction at service temperatures of up to 600°F. This alloy also offers its high strength at a light weight, useful formability and high corrosion resistance. Ti 6AI-4V’s usability makes it the best alloy for use in several industries, such as the aerospace, medical, marine and chemical processing industries. Owning to these factors its demand is high as compared to other grades.
Titanium Market Segment Analysis – By Geography
North America and Europe are considered as vital regions for the R&D and they are also important as sales markets. The US is considered to be an important consumer market owing to its technological advancements and increasing R&D in the manufacturing processes of the country.
Americas held the largest share in the titanium market in 2019 up to 41%, owning to increasing aircraft production in the region. With the increasing population and rising per capita income of the individuals, the demand for commercial aircraft is also increasing. The passenger volumes grew from 114.1 million passengers in 2015 to 126.8 million passengers in 2016 and 137.6 million passengers in 2017 in Mexico. The Mexican commercial aviation and related demand for maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) have been driven by several factors such as Volaris and Interjet, the 2016 approval of the Delta-Aeromexico partnership, the Open Skies Agreement.
In Russia, titanium consumption on vessels has reached 15%-20%, meaning the titanium market will be boosted dramatically, reaching hundreds of billions of dollars in market value. Oil exploration and exploitation will be the next potential market for titanium. Just one offshore oil drilling platform requires 1,500-2,000 tonnes of titanium. China plans to construct 70 platforms in the next 3-5 years, and consumption of titanium will reach 140 thousand tonnes. In addition, China has a great need for desalination and coastal power stations, and if cost reductions and quality improvements can be achieved, the titanium market’s prospects will be very bright.
However, Asia Pacific was the fastest-growing geographic segment in the titanium market, with a CAGR of 7.3%. According to China’s 13th Five Year Plan (2016-2020), by the end of 2020, China will have more than 4,500 civil aircraft, and by 2018, the number of Chinese civil airports had grown to 235. According to the International Trade Administration (ITA), in 2018 the Indian government spent a total of $645 in the civil aviation sector. As the use of titanium has increased in aircraft therefore, growth in production of these directly support titanium market growth.
In 2019, the market of titanium has been consolidated by the top five players accounting for 73% of the share. Major players in the titanium market are Huntsman International, Ineos Group, Iluka Resources Ltd, Sumitomo Corporation, Vsmpo-Avisma Corporation, Toho Titanium Co., Ltd, Arconic Corporation, Allegheny Technologies Incorporated, TIMET, and Western Superconducting Technologies Co., Ltd.