In early 2013 it was announced that a spin off company from a UK university had developed an alternative way of producing titanium. This approach was through electrolysis and challenges the costly and process intensive approach currently followed in the Kroll process. The process quite remarkably works by producing titanium metal by performing electrolysis directly on titanium oxide which is a very abundant material with the titanium oxide acting as a cathode and carbon the anode in an electrolysis reaction.
What is produced is a titanium powder which is becoming hugely popular in 3D print technology. Not yet available for home 3D printing kit it is being used at the research level but undoubtedly it will hit the high street as the demand for stronger materials are needed in independent and home based manufacturing.
For larger scale usage such as titanium use as rods within a aircraft frame then the powder can still obviously be melted and forged to create the more conventional and standard mill products such as titanium bar, titanium sheet, titanium tube and titanium powder. The real impact that this new process will have is that it will bring the cost of titanium down to a fraction of the cost of current prices. This will have dramatic impact on existing manufacturers aswell as the opportunity for a new type of engineering. It follows the similar trends we have seen in with additive manufacturing in that engineering of the future lies in creating components by growing or adding to them, rather than the current process of removing titanium to form a product.
But the process is not without issues, challenges exist in how it might be licensed and who will profit and lose out. But there is no doubt this change will have a huge impact not just on titanium but the metal industry as a whole. Will titanium replace steel ? It has the more preferable properties so if the price is right, why wouldn’t it! For all your current titanium requirements contact us for quality titanium at the right prices!