In a groundbreaking development, scientists from RMIT University in Melbourne have successfully created a new category of titanium alloys using laser 3D printing, potentially revolutionizing the sustainability and applications within the titanium industry.
The conventional titanium alloy, Ti-6Al-4V, has long dominated the market since its inception in 1954, accounting for over 50% of titanium usage. However, this alloy relies on costly elements such as aluminum and vanadium. The newly engineered alloy eliminates the need for these elements and instead utilizes oxygen and iron, which are more abundant and cost-effective.
Traditionally, titanium alloys with high levels of oxygen and iron were considered inferior due to their brittleness and defects. Nevertheless, the researchers managed to manipulate the distribution of oxygen and iron atoms, enabling the production of nanoscale-sized titanium crystals through 3D printing. This technique yielded a material with both strength and ductility, on par with conventional titanium alloys.
The 3D printed alloy offers additional advantages, including the ability to adjust production parameters to achieve gradient properties. This means that different sections of a printed object can possess distinct characteristics tailored to specific requirements.
Furthermore, the newly developed alloy brings sustainability benefits. It can be recycled from titanium with high oxygen and iron content, reducing waste and resource consumption.
While the proof of concept has been established, further research and development are required before industrial applications, particularly in fields like biomedical implants, space, and aerospace industries, can be realized.
The creation of this innovative class of titanium alloys aligns with the Australian government's recognition of advanced manufacturing and materials technology as a crucial field. With its potential to enhance sustainability and broaden the applications of titanium, this breakthrough holds promise for a wide range of industries, contributing to technological advancements and societal progress.