Titanium Particulates to Wire

Titanium wire is an important feedstock for use in additive layer manufacturing (wire additive manufacturing) and in the production of powder for use in additive manufacturing, as well as wire form applications such as fastener stock and anode cages. The market for titanium wire is estimated at 2,500 tonnes/annum (AU$285 million per year). Total titanium growth is supply chain constrained due to global instability and nations seeking to gain sovereign control of the resource. The non-availability of reasonably-priced, high-quality wire and the generation of high waste levels for titanium more generally, 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.

Prior to this SIEF EDP project, the CSIRO continuous wire forming process, TiWi, had been demonstrated for kilogram quantities of wire and was at a TRL of 4. This project raised the TRL of the technology to 6 by producing tens of kilograms of wire from BE-Ti64 and repurposed titanium alloy waste materials. Wire was produced at 6 mm and 3.2 mm diameters to within chemical specification for grade 5 titanium material. Pre-commercial quantities of over 10kg per batch was also met. A number of novel tooling approaches were developed that will be integrated into the technology. Together with these novel tooling solutions, the project allowed the capture and patenting of methods to condition swarf and out-of-specification powder materials as feed for wire making that are bundled into the technology offering.

There has also been significant engagement with supporters and industry along the titanium supply chain who understand and agree with the business case for making wire from repurposed titanium and appear keen to participate now the technology is further advanced to TRL 6.

For more information contact Robert Wilson, CSIRO