Titanium is a low density, high strength element with excellent corrosion resistance. The element can be found in all living things, bodies of water, rocks, soils, and some mineral deposits. The most common occurrence of titanium is in the form of TiO2 or titanium dioxide and it is used as a white pigment. Titanium can be alloyed with many popular metals to create strong and lightweight materials for use in extreme conditions. Titanium has the highest strength to weight ratio of any metallic element.
Titanium has high ductility and a melting point of 1,650°C (3,000°F) and has low electrical and thermal conductivity. A major advantage of titanium is that it has twice the strength of aluminum and only 60% of the density. When titanium is machined, it can gall and friction weld to the tool being used.
At room temperature, titanium creates a passive oxide layer that protects it from further oxidation or chemical degradation. The oxide layer protects the material from dilute acids, but concentrated acids will still damage it. It also burns before melting and can only be melted in a complete vacuum.
Titanium comes in multiple grades, made of both pure metal and alloys. Each grade has specific uses and properties.
Grade 1 titanium is the most ductile of pure grades. It provides great formability and impact toughness compared to the other grades. Grade 2 is considered the workhorse of the pure titanium grades because it is widely available and can be used for a wide range of applications. Grade 3 has a higher strength than grades 1 and 2 and has similar ductility. Grade 4 is the strongest pure titanium and has increased chemical resistance. It can also be welded easily and is mainly used in medical applications.
Grade 7 is close to grade 2 but adding palladium decreases the difficulty of fabrication and makes it the most chemically resistant of all titanium alloys. Grade 23 is a pure form of 6AL-4V and is considered the ultimate dental and medical titanium alloy. It has good chemical resistance and is biocompatible so it can be used in implants.
Titanium alloys are commonly used in airplanes, armor plating, shipbuilding, spacecraft, and missile construction. For these applications, high strength alloys are used in many critical components. About two-thirds of all titanium produced is used in aerospace. The 6AL-4V titanium alloy makes up almost 50% of all alloys used in airplanes. This alloy is made of titanium, vanadium, aluminum, iron, and oxygen with trace amounts of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and yttrium.
Titanium is easily welded so it is commonly used for piping in chemical and petrochemical processing. Specific alloys and grades are tailored for
Titanium’s extremely high strength to weight ratio makes it a perfect material for both high performance and high-efficiency vehicles. 6AL-4V alloy is about 50% less dense than stainless steel. Another advantage of titanium is its resistance to corrosive salt environments. This is important in automotive applications due to the salt used to deice roads in the United States and Europe. The material’s modulus of elasticity is about half of the steel allowing titanium springs to be both lighter and smaller than equivalent steel springs. Titanium is also useful in engine assemblies because the lower weight reduces rotational mass and inertia. Titanium is also commonly used in exhaust systems, especially in high-performance motorcycles.
An issue with using better material in automotive applications is the increase in manufacturing costs. In most cases, using titanium is justified due to fuel cost saving and reduced emissions compared to using parts made of stainless steels.
Titanium is used in a wide range of medical applications, from full implants to orthopedic pins, screws, plates, dental implants, and heart valves. It innately attaches to bone and has a modulus of elasticity similar to the bone it is attached to. A similar modulus means that the implant and bone share the load applied to it and minimizes deterioration to the bone and surrounding tissue that could occur with other materials.
Titanium is non-magnetic so it can be used in cases for pacemakers. It can also pass through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines and metal detectors. Properties including fracture resistance, low electrical conductivity, low ion-formation tendency, and predictable thermodynamic properties make the material ideal for medical applications.
Titanium is also used in medical tools due to the high strength to weight ratio and corrosion resistance.
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