Team prints "world's first" 3D titanium car components

Dec. 11, 2013
Metalysis, a spin out of Cambridge University, creates titanium powder at much lower cost than conventional method so less expensive additive manufacturing is possible.

Cambridge, England - Stephan Harris reports in The Engineer that UK researchers claim to have produced the world's first 3D-printed titanium car parts, demonstrating how the metal could become cheap enough for commercial production.

Titanium is usually considered too expensive for use in automotive manufacturing but a novel process for producing titanium powder from sand has opened the way for 3D printing parts cheaply enough for low-to-medium volume production, according to engineers from Sheffield University.

The process, created by Rotherham-based company Metalysis (originally a spin-out of Cambridge University), creates titanium powder at much lower cost than the conventional method of atomizing blocks of metal, said Prof Iain Todd, director of the university's Mercury Centre in the department of materials.

This means automotive parts can be made more economically using additive manufacturing rather than traditional subtractive techniques that waste large amounts of the expensive metal and use costly die set tools, he told The Engineer.

"If you wanted to make anything out of titanium, you normally wouldn't bother because it's not a commodity metal. But also the process is getting a lot quicker. It's certainly a lot better for moderate runs - it used to be very low-volume production runs."

Todd's team has used the material to 3D print parts including impellers and turbochargers, as well as aerofoils using a Renishaw laser additive manufacturing machine and standard operating procedures based on the material's thermal characteristics.

"It processes beautifully," he said. "It's probably one of the easiest materials we've ever put on."

The research doesn't take titanium automotive printing to the point where the material or the technique could be commonly used for mass production. But Todd is confident things are moving towards that.

"Each time we change something we move closer to the point where titanium could be considered like something as stainless steel," he said.

"That's still a high-value steel, but you're looking that costs [are] the same, is about half the density and has temperature capabilities that are quite attractive. I think you're looking at an interesting competitor to standard automotive material."

The researchers now plan to work with Metalysis to create other materials from the titanium powder, particularly alloys that would normally separate when formed from conventional titanium.

Read more in The Engineer

About the Author

Industrial Laser Solutions Editors

We edited the content of this article, which was contributed by outside sources, to fit our style and substance requirements. (Editors Note: Industrial Laser Solutions has folded as a brand and is now part of Laser Focus World, effective in 2022.)

Sponsored Recommendations

Monolithic integration of functional structures into micro-optical elements

Dec. 6, 2023
A polymer-only ultraviolet imprint process potentially saves costs, simplifies the process, and increases the reliability of the optical element.

Manufacturing thin films with tailor-made electronic properties

Dec. 5, 2023
Unlock the future of optoelectronics as researchers at Leibniz IPHT in Jena, Germany unveil an innovative technique for precision deposition of thin organic semiconductor films...

Quantitative Microscopy with Deep Learning

Dec. 5, 2023
Explore the untapped potential of deep learning in video microscopy with our cutting-edge software, DeepTrack 2.2. Overcoming the steep learning curve, this innovative application...

Stimulated Brillouin scattering enhances CMOS chip for microwave signal processing

Dec. 5, 2023
University of Sydney Nano Institute researchers are pioneering photonic silicon chips and helping spur growth in Australia’s semiconductor industry.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!