Titanium alloys and 3D printing


“[We are] looking at how to up-scale the process of using titanium powder to create extruded and forged titanium products.”

Professor Brian Gabbitas

Titanium is one of the most common elements in the Earth's crust. It is very strong and light so that titanium alloys have the best strength-to-weight ratio of all engineering alloys. This makes them ideal for use in the aerospace industry the chemical processing industry and in the biomedical field where titanium alloys are used for implants, such as hip replacements.

Titanium alloys are used to make objects by an additive manufacturing process called laser sintering or selective laser melting. This is a form of 3D printing and enables the manufacture of parts with complex geometries that would be impossible to manufacture by any other method. 

Professor Brian Gabbitas and his team from the Waikato Centre for Advanced Materials (WaiCAM) have been awarded Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) funding to research novel ways of producing and commercialising high-quality titanium and titanium products in New Zealand.

"One of our projects is looking at how to up-scale the process of using titanium powder to create extruded and forged titanium products," says Professor Gabbitas. "This could be used for many products which are currently made from steel, but which would benefit from having a much lower weight and good corrosion resistance. Some products for marine applications are currently under development for manufacturing by New Zealand companies."

The second project is a collaborative one with TiDA (Titanium industry Development Association), Callaghan Innovation, GNS Science and the University of Auckland, focusing on processing technologies. "New Zealand is becoming a world leader in titanium powder metallurgy."