Titanium Particulates to Wire

Titanium wire is an important feedstock for use in additive layer manufacturing and in the production of powder for use in additive manufacturing. The market for titanium wire is estimated at 2,500 tonnes/annum (AU$285 million per year) and is expected to grow to more than 6,000 tonnes/annum over the next few years on the back of increased use in aerospace component manufacture. The non-availability of reasonably-priced high-quality wire is a major barrier to broader adoption of additive layer manufacturing as a mainstream production process.

CSIRO has invented and patented a process for the continuous conversion of low-cost titanium particulates from novel and recycled sources to titanium wire. Recycling the thousands of tonnes of titanium swarf generated each year by industry in subtractive manufacturing processes back into wire for use in additive layer manufacturing is becoming increasingly important for the aerospace industry. Similarly, the reuse of up to 20% waste generated during powder atomisation back into wire is important to industry.
A cost-benefit analysis shows that the technology has a compelling value proposition if the technical challenges of tooling life and 50x scale-up can be overcome:

  • The CSIRO technology can generate a value uplift of 17 times (turning swarf at AU$5/kg into wire worth AU$85/kg
  • the levelised cost of producing wire using the CSIRO process is 25% lower than the levelised cost of producing it using conventional processes, with a capital intensity for the CSIRO process about one third that of the conventional process.
  • The CSIRO process might enable point-of-use recycling, further enhancing its value proposition over conventional centralised processes.

The CSIRO continuous wire forming process has been demonstrated for kilogram quantities of wire and is at a TRL of 4 for the above-mentioned applications. This project will raise the TRL to 6 by delivering pre-commercial quantities (50 kg) of quality wire in single runs from swarf or novel titanium powders.

Success of this project will be demonstrated by:

  • increasing tooling durability to enable 300 kg of wire to be made per tooling cycle,
  • producing wire that is consistent in quality and suitable for end-users, and
  • producing pre-commercial quantities of 50kg of wire per production cycle.

A successful project will be important in establishing the Australian titanium value chain.