Every metal used in manufacturing, and 3D printing in particular, has its unique benefits, but titanium is an especially popular material for a number of reasons. It’s the go-to metal for medical implants, thanks to its strength, light weight, corrosion resistance and biocompatibility, and those characteristics (minus the biocompatibility) also make it a highly desirable material for aerospace applications. It’s also able to withstand extreme temperatures.

While pure titanium is often used for medical and dental applications, it’s usually alloyed with other metals when it comes to aerospace parts. The most common metals alloyed with titanium are aluminum and vanadium, with others including iron, cobalt, copper, tantalum, nickel, and more. Developing new titanium and titanium alloy powders for additive manufacturing is an ongoing project, and the latest contribution comes in the form of a partnership between GE Aviation and Allegheny Technologies Incorporated (ATI).

The joint venture will lead to the production of a new meltless titanium alloy powder manufacturing technology, specifically for additive manufacturing applications. The terms of the agreement include the construction of a new R&D pilot production facility.

The involvement of GE Aviation means that the new technology is bound to have an impact on the aerospace industry, but ATI is a strong presence in aerospace itself. The Pittsburgh-based company’s largest market is aerospace and defense, with a particular focus on jet engines, though it also has a hand in oil and gas, medicine, energy, and automotive. ATI is a leader in the production of nickel and titanium alloys, especially for use in advanced jet engines and 3D printed products. It has a history of investing large sums in the development of new metal powder production technologies for additive manufacturing, particularly with aerospace applications in mind. Two years ago, ATI dramatically expanded its nickel-based superalloy powder production capabilities, particularly for the production of jet engines, and now it’s zeroing in on its other specialty: titanium alloys.

“We are pleased to join with GE Aviation to create this innovative next-generation technology joint venture,” said Rich Harshman, ATI’s Chairman, President and CEO. “The science of specialty metal powders is a transformative technology and we intend to maintain and enhance our industry-leading position.”

While GE Additive may be GE’s dedicated additive manufacturing business unit, indeed working toward the creation of its own massive metal additive manufacturing machine, GE Aviation remains heavily invested in the technology itself, relying on it to revolutionize the manufacture of jet engines through additive manufacturing. Titanium alloys have played a large role in GE Aviation’s manufacturing processes lately; the company has used the material to 3D print blades and other parts for its now-famous GE90 jet engines. GE Aviation is more than ready to build on that success, which it hopes to do through the partnership with ATI.

“Developing new materials is an important part of our vision for our business,” said David Joyce, Vice Chairman of GE and President and CEO of GE Aviation. “ATI is a recognized leader in advanced specialty materials, and we are excited about the collaboration this new joint venture enables.”

Discuss in the Titanium Alloys forum at 3DPB.com.

TiAl powder and finished components inside an Arcam 3D printer [Image: Avio Aero via GE Reports]

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