Titanium is widely used by the military in everything from fighter jets to submarines ©Crown copyright
Titanium is widely used by the military in everything from fighter jets to submarines ©Crown copyright

Titanium costs halved with new process

posted by Francis Churchill
26 March 2018

A new method of forging titanium could potentially halve the cost of producing the material.

Scientists at the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down, Salisbury, have developed a way of producing titanium that cuts the 40-stage process to just two steps.

Gavin Williamson, defence secretary, said the new technique could allow a “huge expansion of titanium parts and equipment” in the military. The process could also benefit other industries including the automotive sector.

“Our armed forces use titanium in everything from cutting-edge nuclear submarines and fighter jets through to life-changing replacement limbs. But production time and costs mean we haven’t always used it.

“This ground-breaking method is not only faster and cheaper but could see a huge expansion of titanium parts and equipment throughout the military,” he said.

Titanium is an attractive material, particularly for military applications, because is as strong as steel but half the weight and resistant to corrosion. However, the metal is difficult to work and can be 10 times more expensive to use than steel.

But this new forging method, called FAST-forge, produces titanium components from powder or particulate using “two simple processing steps”, said Dr Nick Weston, who led the development of the technology. The process creates components that need minimal finishing work after being forged.

Weston said: “FAST-forge will provide a step change in the cost of components, allowing use in automotive applications such as powertrain and suspension systems.”

Dstl invested nearly £30,000 into developing the technology at the University of Sheffield.

So far only small scale trials have been carried out but Dstl and UK firm Kennametal Manufacturing have built a larger furnace that will enable larger components to be made for testing.

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