Everything you need to know about Titanium

Titanium metal facts

Titanium is the 9th most common element on the planet. It is found in igneous and metamorphic rock formations and their derived alluvial deposits. It is the fourth most common structural element after aluminium, iron and magnesium, and it comprises 0.66% of the earth’s crust.

Just 5% of all titanium ore mined is processed into titanium metal. The remaining 95% is used to manufacture brilliant white titanium dioxide pigment. Its colour stems from its high refractive index and it is used in everything from sun cream to the lines on Wimbledon’s Centre Court to the sprinkling on Krispy Kreme’s doughnuts. Titanium metal is widely used in aerospace, chemical processing and the automotive industry, where its properties come into their own.

Titanium has an Atomic Number of 22 and an atomic weight of 47.9. It has two allotropic forms one body centred cubic, the other close-packed hexagonal. Titanium has 5 natural isotopes 46Ti 47Ti, 48Ti, 49Ti, 50Ti.

Titanium’s reactivity makes it costly to process into a pure end product. Yet its physical and mechanical properties make it one of the most exciting metals of our time. It is 45% lighter than steel with the same strength and Titanium is also 60% heavier than aluminium, but with twice the strength. Combined with its excellent corrosion resistance, courtesy of its ceramic oxide layer, it is ideal for use in some of the world’s most demanding engineering applications.

Titanium’s future is positive efficiency improvements in the titanium supply chain mean that costs have fallen and the metal is rapidly achieving greater penetration in consumer markets. We have compiled the ultimate one-stop shop for you to learn about this incredible metal. Read on to learn more.

History of Titanium

Titanium was only discovered relatively recently by Reverend William Gregor in Cornwall 200 years ago extracted from its ore by the Hunter and Kroll processes in the 1930s. Our knowledge and usage of the metal has accelerated in the last 50 years.

The stability of titanium’s oxide ores meant that isolating the metal into the viable high-performance product we have today was a major challenge and could not have been achieved without incremental improvements made by thousands of professionals working across the industry. Learn more about titanium on our history of titanium page.

Titanium Alloys, Properties and Grades

The microstructure and crystallography of Titanium alloys effect its final properties, you can learn more about the properties of the most widely used titanium alloys from our data sheets, grades and properties sections.

Titanium Properties

Titanium and its alloys have “long range order-translational periodicity” meaning that its structure repeats in space at regular intervals allowing the meal to deform plastically when free of impurities. Visit our properties page to learn more about unalloyed Titanium’s electrical, thermal, chemical, mechanical and physical properties.

Titanium Grades

The ASTM International standard for titanium outlines grades between 1 and 38 grades. These are classified according to the metal content of the alloy. Commercially pure titanium, known as CP are unalloyed grades of titanium, they can have titanium purity ranging from 99% up to “5 nine” 99.999% purity.

Trace impurities in CP Ti can be removed and alloying metals added through vacuum arc re-melting. Many of the grades that were developed never saw widespread usage. By far the most prominent alloy of titanium is Grade 5 Ti 6Al 4V, a mix of 90% titanium 6% Aluminium and 4% Vanadium.

Grade 5 Ti 6AL 4V Titanium Alloy

Ti 6Al 4V is so widely used because of its optimum blend of properties that make it superior in performance to pure titanium. Visit our Ti 6Al 4V page to learn more.

Grade 7 Ti-Pd

Grade 7 is similar to unalloyed titanium but contains palladium which improves resistance to corrosion. It is used widely in marine and chemical processing.

Grade 9 Ti 3Al 2.5V

A near alpha alloy it is similar to grade 5 titanium but is better suited to cold working. It offers higher tensile strength than CP Ti and the same levels of weldability.

Grade 12Ti0.3Mo0.8 Ni

Grade 12 titanium is classified as commercially pure. It has molybdenum and nickel added to it which provides similar properties as adding palladium in Grade 7. But it has the advantage of being less costly.

Grade 23 Ti 6Al-4V ELI

Grade 23 is nearly the same as grade 5 Ti. The ELI stands for extra low interstitials. Eli alloy has better toughness than the standard grade, due to fewer opportunities for fractures to develop around undesirable contaminants like oxygen and nitrogen.

Titanium Microstructure and Crystallography

There are three categories of titanium alloys alpha, beta and alpha-beta. They are grouped into these categories based on their dominant phase and microstructure. You can learn more on our titanium microstructure page.

Titanium Supply ChainTitanium Mining

Our Titanium supply chain overview takes you from the formation of titanium’s ore in magma chambers to the extraction, processing and machining involved in the creation of high-performance titanium.

– Titanium ores and commercial mining

Titanium is found in a number of commercially viable ore deposits around the world. The ore ilmenite is formed in the magma chambers of volcanoes. It is either mined in-situ or from the heavy mineral sands that develop where rivers and streams deposit the mineral. You can learn more about the other ores from which titanium is obtained and the process of their extraction here.

– Titanium Manufacture and Processing

Once the ore has been removed from the ground it has to undergo a number of processes in order to make the transition to what we would recognise as titanium. The Kroll process is the current commercial titanium production process and is used to create a pure titanium sponge that can undergo further processing.

Alloying of Titanium

After the Kroll process, titanium is put into a vacuum arc re-melting chamber known as VAR. Here impurities can be removed and alloying metals like chromium, vanadium and aluminium can be added to the metal.

Casting and Forging of Titanium

Titanium can be either cast or forged. Forged titanium is usually stronger due to the compressive forces placed on the metal during processing cause better affinity in the metals structure. Casting, where the metal is poured into a mould is used in lower cost titanium applications where the optimum performance from the metal is not required.

Heat Treatment

Depending on the applications some alloys will need heat treatment which will improve their strength and hardness. Heat treatment reduces residual stresses that develop during fabrication.

– Titanium Alloy Fabrication

Titanium can be fabricated into complex shapes for a variety of product forms. It can be handled like any other high-performance metal providing its unique properties are taken into account.

– Milling and Machining

You can learn more about the process of milling and machining in our titanium machining section, we cover everything you need to know from feed and speeds to the common problems encountered when machining titanium.

– Applications of Titanium and its alloys

Titanium is used in a wide range of industries from chemical plants, water desalination, offshore oil and natural gas rigs, aerospace, architecture, jewellery, sports equipment and high-performance cars. You can learn more in our applications section.

– Titanium alloys advantages and disadvantages

Titanium is an incredibly versatile metal. However, the complexity involved in processing it to an acceptable standard makes it prohibitively expensive for some applications. You can learn more about the advantage and disadvantages of titanium here.

SGS are dedicated to improving the efficiency of the Titanium machining process. Titanium is an expensive metal to manufacture. We design and manufacture cutting tools that will do the quickly and to a higher standard. We reduce our customer’s production costs providing value at the spindle.