A silvery metal, titanium is highly valued for its great strength and unmatched corrosion resistance. Titanium powder is the result of processing this metal in a variety of ways to produce a fine metal powder. Its color varies from gray to black, and it has the same properties as the material in its solid form. The powder is widely used in industries such as space and missile, transport, and chemical processing to create high-performance, lightweight parts. Some of the processes used to transform the powder into usable parts include powder injection molding and laser-engineered net shaping.
The metal is mined mostly in the form of titanium dioxide, and titanium is obtained from it through the Kroll process. This is an elaborate and expensive method that drives up the price of the metal. The FFC Cambridge process is a newer processing method that is simpler and less energy intensive. It uses the powder form of titanium dioxide to create a purer version of titanium in the form of a sponge or powder. Producing this metal in a cheaper way opens up a whole new range of possibilities in manufacturing parts and building structures.
For instance, if it were possible to build bridges out of titanium, not only would they be almost indestructible, but they would also weigh less. Besides structural support, the benefits of titanium powder being rustproof include lower maintenance costs. Parts produced with the aid of titanium powder have many advantages over those made through traditional processes. It's easy to make complex parts that have uniform inner structures without any inner defects. The parts also have a near net shape, which means that the final shape of the part is very close to the initial design; this reduces the need for surface finishing.
There are many techniques to produce titanium powder, such as gas atomization, the plasma rotating electrode process, and the hydride-dehydride process. The quality of the powders vary upon the process used. For instance, the titanium powder obtained through atomization is spherical, while the hydride-dehydride powders are angular. These powders are then structured into parts with the aid of techniques like metal or powder injection molding, laser sintering, and direct powder rolling. Laser-engineered net shaping, hot isostatic pressing, and spark plasma sintering are some of the other processes used to consolidate the powder.
Metal injection molding is used to create multiple small to moderate-size parts in large numbers. The process consists of mixing the titanium powder with a polymer binder. This is introduced to a mold, and the binder is removed with the aid of heat treatment. The disadvantage here is that the binder may react or may be improperly removed, resulting in parts with less than ideal mechanical properties. Titanium parts produced this way are not suitable for use in the aerospace industry but can be used in less critical areas.
The most futuristic way of creating titanium parts involves the laser sintering process. The titanium powder is fused layer by layer on top of a powder bed with the aid of a high-power laser. The new layer is applied on top, and the process continues until the part is complete. The many benefits of this method include no waste products, no tooling, and a reduced need for traditional finishing. Additionally, the process is almost 100% efficient and allows complex parts to be fabricated with great ease.