Revolutionizing Titanium Production
The Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), UK, may have revolutionized titanium production by reducing the 40-stage process down to just two steps and potentially halving the production cost.
Titanium is as strong as steel and half the weight—but around ten times the cost. It is notoriously difficult and expensive to make which limits its wider use.
FAST-forge, the revolutionary process, stands for Field Assisted Sintering Technology (FAST). According to Nick Weston, post-doctoral research association, University of Sheffield, “FAST-forge is a disruptive technology that enables near-net-shape components to be produced from powder or particulate in two simple processing steps. Such components have mechanical properties equivalent to forged product. For titanium alloys, FAST-forge will provide a step change in the cost of components, allowing use in automotive applications in automotive applications such as powertrain and suspension systems.”
So far, small-scale trials have been carried out, but a new large-scale fast furnace facility jointly funded by Dstl and Kennametal Manufacturing (UK) Ltd has been built and will enable larger components to be produced for testing. Current investigations have created simple-shaped FAST specimens from Ti-6AL-4V hydride-dehydride powder, which were fully dense and microstructurally homogeneous.
Titanium’s high strength, lightweight and corrosion resistance sees it widely used in defense, in military aircraft and submarines, but its high production costs make it difficult to justify in all but essential areas.
Dstl has invested more than $42,000 (£30,000) in the new research project at the University of Sheffield, which led to the development of the new ground-breaking manufacturing process.
“We’re really excited about this innovation, which could cut the production cost of titanium parts by up to 50%,” said Matthew Lunt, principal scientist for materials science at Dstl. “With this reduction in cost, we could use titanium in submarines, where corrosion resistance would extend the life, or for light-weight requirements like armored vehicles.”
Learn more about FAST-forge technology.