The Application of Titanium

At TSM, we work with many manufacturers, engineers and designers that use titanium in a wide variety of products and projects. Titanium is extremely tough yet lightweight, boasting the highest strength to weight ratio of any structural metal. It takes far less titanium to produce a structure that matches the same strength of other metals. If individual plates of the same weight were made from titanium, copper and stainless steel, the titanium plate would be double the size of the copper, and 75% larger than the stainless steel. Conversely you could buy half as much titanium to do the same job as copper, and slightly more than half as much to do the same job as stainless steel.

The equipment and capability in our warehouse gives us the flexibility to meet a wide variety of customer needs – and so we get to see a huge range of these applications from simple weight reduction to advanced body implants.

1. Titanium in the Aerospace market

The SR-71 “Blackbird” war plane was the first aircraft to use titanium extensively in its structure and skin. The aerodynamic friction that resulted from the intense speeds of which the aircraft was capable created so much aerodynamic friction that if any other metal was used, it would simply melt out of the sky. In fact, it was so fast, that if anyone fired a surface to air missile at it – the standard evasive procedure was to simply accelerate and outrun it! Holding the record of the fastest aircraft in the world for over 30 years, the Blackbird reached speeds of 3500km an hour, or three times the speed of sound. Today, about two thirds of all titanium metal produced is used in aircraft engines and frames. As an example, the A380 Aerobus uses approximately 70 tons of titanium for the aircraft structure and fittings.

2. Titanium in medical devices.

Titanium is one of the most biocompatible metals – the human body can handle it in large doses with no impact. In fact, it is estimated that we ingest around 0.8mg of titanium a day – most passes through us without being absorbed. Also, its density is very similar to human bone, which will readily adhere to it. These qualities make Titanium perfect for use in surgical implants, such as hip balls, sockets (joint replacements), heart stents and dental implants. Lasting in excess of 20 years with no effects, Titanium is a clear choice in the medical field. Its high strength to weight ratio also makes it the perfect choice for surgical instruments and other medical devices. Wheelchairs made from titanium provide the lightest weight, yet are very strong and children’s wheelchairs can be made to grow as the child becomes older.

3. Titanium in everyday products

Surprisingly, of all the mined and synthetic titanium minerals, approximately only 5% is used to produce titanium metal. The remaining 95% is used to manufacture pure titanium dioxides – a pigment that enhances brightness and opacity in paints and inks, paper, and plastics, and even in food products and cosmetics. It’s also the metal used in the body of Apple’s PowerBook line – helping achieve a lightweight frame.

4. Titanium Art/Architecture

Titanium spontaneously forms a hard protective oxide film upon contact with any oxygen. It’s this film that gives the metal its trademark shine and shimmer, with variations in the film’s thickness affecting the color that the metal projects. It also has remarkable elasticity, making it the metal of choice for artistic and architectural structures. For instance, the 40 m (131 foot) memorial to Yuri Gagarin (the first man to travel in space) in Moscow, is made of titanium for the metal’s attractive color and association with rocketry. The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao is sheathed in titanium panels. It can also be used to help structural repair of historic buildings. Titanium was used as a part of the 2008 structural repair and stabilization for the Leaning tower of Pisa in Italy.

The artist who chose Titanium for the Olympic Torch Cauldron said he chose the metal for two reasons – its modern image of superior technology and its beautiful colors when heat treated.

Ti donated the titanium panels that were used in a 9-11 Memorial Monument to commemorate all those who lost their lives in the Twin Towers tragedy.

5. Titanium in Sporting Products

The high strength to weight ratio of Titanium makes it ideal for use in a wide range of sporting equipment. Titanium is a core material in the components of the world’s lightest bicycle, which weighs only 6 lbs.! Considering an average adult bike weighs 30 lbs. and racing bikes weigh around 15 lbs., this bike is extremely lightweight thanks to its titanium structure.

The number 1 consumer of titanium for sporting goods is in manufacture of golf club heads. Most manufacturers such as Taylor Made, Cobra, Ping and Integra have a titanium line.

Titanium is also naturally resistant to corrosion and erosion – making it a great choice for safety equipment. When the 6000 bolts that secured the daring climbing track in Ton Sai first started to erode, they were replaced with stainless steel. However the stainless steel replacements only lasted 9 months, after which they had a corrosion problem that would break the bolt on a simple body weight charge. Metallurgists discovered that the only metal the climbers could trust with their lives was titanium. An average of 2000 climbers use this track per week, and a group of keen climbers have started a charity to replace all the bolts with titanium along the entire length of the route.

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