Monash engineers use 3D printing to develop the highest specific strength titanium alloy

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A study led by Monash University engineers has shown how cutting-edge 3D printing methods can be used to develop an ultra-strong commercial titanium alloy.

In a statement, Monash University described the study as a significant milestone for the aerospace, space, defence, energy, and biomedical industries.

Australian researchers under the direction of Professor Aijun Huang and Dr. Yuman Zhu from Monash University were able to manipulate a novel microstructure using 3D printing techniques. Monash University said they achieved a level of mechanical performance never before seen. 

According to the university, the research was conducted on commercially available alloys and can immediately be used. 

“Titanium alloys require complex casting and thermomechanical processing to achieve the high strengths required for some critical applications. We have discovered that additive manufacturing can exploit its unique manufacturing process to create ultrastrong and thermally stable parts in commercial titanium alloys, which may be directly implemented in service,” Professor Huang said. 

Professor Huang detailed the steps they took to produce the highest specific strength titanium alloy.

“After a simple post-heat treatment on a commercial titanium alloy, adequate elongation and tensile strengths over 1,600 MPa are achieved, the highest specific strength among all 3D printed metal to date. This work paves the way to fabricate structural materials with unique microstructures and excellent properties for broad applications,” he added.

According to Monash University, titanium alloys are currently the most widely-used 3D-printed metal components in the aerospace industry. However, the university stated that most commercially available 3D-printed titanium alloys do not possess satisfactory properties for many structural applications, particularly their insufficient strength at room and elevated temperatures under harsh service conditions.

“Our findings offer a completely new approach to precipitation strengthening in commercial alloys that can be utilised to produce real components with complex shape for load-bearing applications. This application is still absent for any Titanium alloys to date. The 3D printing plus simple heat treatment also means the process cost is greatly reduced compared to other materials with similar strength,” Professor Huang said. 

The study’s findings are expected to provide essential insights into strengthening and dislocation engineering principles in physical metallurgy.


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