Upcoming Trends In Titanium-Based Additive Manufacturing

  • Monday, 29 May 2017 00:00

Revenues from titanium-based additive manufacturing are expected to grow to over US$1 billion by 2026. Important world trends are playing a part in reassessing the market opportunities for the material. By SmarTech Publishing

The recent announcement that GE is acquiring a controlling stake in Arcam will have a profound impact on the additively manufactured (AM) titanium sector, SmarTech Publishing believes. Arcam owns Advanced Powders & Coatings(AP&C), which supplies over one third of the total supply of titanium powder for the AM industry today.

Titanium's Growing Popularity

As a result of this development and other important trends, we believe it is an excellent time to reassess the market opportunities for 3D printed titanium. Revenues from titanium-based AM power will reach US$518 million in 2022 growing to US$1.077 billion by 2026.

The ability to effectively process titanium alloys is a leading driver in the development of titanium AM. Titanium is becoming one of the most popular materials for metal additive manufacturing systems due to their growing use in both medical and aerospace industries.

3D Printing In Aerospace

Revenues from additive manufacturing of titanium in aerospace are expected to reach around $110 million by 2022. Titanium alloys in the aerospace industry are in continued competition against other high strength-to-weight ratio materials.

Nonetheless, there is already demand for specialty titanium alloys for aerospace other than the commonly utilized Ti64—titanium aluminides (TiAl), for example. In the aerospace market, printed titanium is currently being explored for the smaller structural entities in engines such as brackets and housings.

Currently Available Specialty Titanium Alloys For AM
Ti 6242 LPW Technology High temperature applications
eTi (Boron enhanced) Puris Lightweighting aerospace and similiar components
Z-Ti Z3DLab Zirconia / Titanium hybrid
Puris 5+ Puris Low oxygen content Ti64 alloy
Ti-Al (Titanium Aluminide)  Praxair Cost-effective applications requiring greater strength than traditional aluminium alloys

Medical and Dental Applications

Cranio-maxillofacial implant

The demand for titanium for 3D printing in medicine and dental applications is expected to grow significantly. In 2016 more than 150,000 kg of titanium will be consumed for these applications. However, this will have grown to almost 1.1 million kg by 2022. Much of this growth will come from a successful push from the orthopaedic industry to achieve FDA and similar certifications for new types of titanium implants.

Applications for AM titanium include spinal, knee, cranial, and other implants – the entire industry is moving towards additive as a preferred production method for most titanium orthopaedic devices due to the improved osseointegrative properties and ease of manufacturing related features using AM. Meanwhile, opportunities for printed titanium are beginning to emerge in the dental industry through a worldwide growth in dental implants as well as production of custom titanium devices to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

Supply Chain Evolution

Thus, the supply chain for qualified titanium materials for AM is entering a highly transitionary phase. Though this may provide a marginal boost to wire based systems, the qualifications for use of wire based AM versus powder AM only potentially cross in a few select applications.

The significance of supply chain evolution in titanium powder for AM is thus one of the most important issues currently facing the metal AM market in this rapid growth phase.

Comparison of Titanium Power Production Techniques For Use In Additive Manufacturing
Standard Gas Atomisation Comparably inexpensive Common feedstock, high throughput, wide global supply potential Potential for contaminants, spherical shape is acceptable but can be improved, presence of satellites Low. Lots of potential supply, but generally not well-tailored for titanium versus other AM metals
VIM Gas Atomisation Comparably inexpensive High throughput and lower cost than plasma with less risk of contaminants Particle spherocity less than plasma Medium. Similiar to EIGA, tailored systems for AM may be viable long-term
EIGA Atomisation Comparably inexpensive High throughput and lower cost than plasma with less risk of contaminants Particle spherocity less than plasma Medium. Customised and tailored systems can provide suitable titanium output at moderate cost
Plasma Atomisation Comparably expensive Very good spherocity and purity, low satellites Cost, limited in terms of feedstock forms Medium to High. Current key user groups are generally not cost-sensitive and value quality powder
PREP Most expensive High spherocity and purity Cost, low throughput in size distributions suitable for AM Medium to High. Choice for most critical manufacturing applications
Electrolysis Significantly less expensive Elimination of significant portion of total process chain Powders suitability is questionable for current AM systems Unknown. Potentially relevant for cost-sensitive segments like automotive
Metal Hydride Inexpensive Simplification of process chain, lower cost Powders unsuitable for current AM without additional processing Unknown. Suitable for production of feedstock for plasma atomisation, may be viable more directly with further development

APMEN Feature, Apr 2017

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