A world-first study led by Monash University engineers has demonstrated how cutting-edge 3D printing techniques can be used to produce an ultra-strong commercial titanium alloy – a significant leap forward for the aerospace, space, defense, energy, and biomedical industries.
Australian researchers, led by Professor Aijun Huang and Dr. Yuman Zhu from Monash University, used a 3D printing method to manipulate a novel microstructure. In doing so, they achieved unprecedented mechanical performance.
“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 ultra-strong and thermally stable parts in commercial titanium alloys, which may be directly implemented in service,” said Professor Huang. “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.”
Titanium alloys are one of the leading 3D printed metal components for the aerospace industry. However, according to the research, most commercially available titanium alloys made using 3D printing do not have satisfactory properties for many structural applications, especially their inadequate 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 utilized to produce real components with complex shape for load-bearing application. This application is still absent for any Titanium alloys to date,” said Professor Huang. “The 3D printing plus simple heat treatment also means the process cost is greatly reduced compared to other materials with similar strength.”
The findings in this work are expected to lead to fundamental insights into the principles of strengthening and dislocation engineering in the field of physical metallurgy.
Professor Huang led the research titled ‘Ultrastrong nanotwinned titanium alloys through additive manufacturing’ with Dr. Yuman Zhu from the Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing. The research was undertaken on commercially available alloys, and was published in Nature Materials.