Metal additive manufacturing is an emerging technology that challenges traditional manufacturing methods. However, the corrosion behavior of additively manufactured parts must be considered if additive techniques are to find widespread application.
Huge effects have been paid over the past decades in the optimization of printing devices, including highly reliable laser, inexpensive high-performance computing hardware and software. Currently, metal 3D printing has been highlighted for its unique advantages in producing metallic materials in comparison with other fabrication techniques. Let’s take a example of Ti Based alloy.
As titanium combines broad industrial application in high-performance parts with high machining costs, hard molding and a long lead time in conventional processing, titanium and titanium alloys are of utmost interest with regard to AM techniques
Among titanium alloys, Ti6Al4V is the most widely used material for many engineering parts and biomedical implants. The material provides strong resistance against corrosion and is distinguished for its high ductility. These features make it a great candidate for implementation in several industries.
There are many benefits to 3D printing titanium.
For aerospace applications, the use of titanium and 3D printed components often helps reduce the purchase rate. The term derived from the aerospace industry refers to the correlation between the weight of the initially purchased material and the weight of the finished product.
For example, in traditional manufacturing, the buy-to-fly ratio of titanium aircraft parts can be between 12:1 to 25:1. This means you need 12-25 kg of raw materials to produce 1 kg of parts. In this case, up to 90% of the material can be processed.
Metal 3D printing can reduce the proportion of titanium from 3:1 to 12:1. This is because metal 3D printers usually only use the amount of material needed to make parts, and there is very little waste generated from the support structure. For expensive materials (such as titanium), it is very important to reduce the purchase cost than the cost saved.
Additive manufacturing can also enhance the lightweight properties of titanium thanks to topology optimization. Using topology optimization software, engineers set certain requirements, such as load and stiffness constraints and then let the software tool to optimize the initial design to meet those requirements. Through this optimization, any unnecessary material is removed from the design, creating a lighter yet strong component.
Topologically optimized designs can often only be manufactured with the help of additive m manufacturing technologies. This benefit is particularly valued by the aerospace industry, where lightweight 3D-printed titanium parts can lead to weight savings and better aircraft performance.
Despite the advantages of titanium 3D printing, there are a few challenges that need to be taken into consideration.
1. First is the need to develop standards for using titanium with additive technologies. Some companies are already taking steps in this direction.
2. The second challenge is the high cost of titanium powder. For example, the price of titanium powder optimized for 3D printing ranges from US$300 to US$600.
Titanium 3D printing has become a valuable technology in the aerospace, medicine and automotive fields. The main reason is that the superior performance of titanium is combined with the ability to reduce waste in 3D printing and create complex and lightweight designs.
In the future, as the cost of titanium decreases and more applications are discovered, titanium 3D printing will become a good manufacturing alternative for a wider range of industries.