Titanium Additive Manufacturing

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Overview of Titanium Additive Manufacturing

Titanium additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing of titanium, refers to various additive manufacturing techniques used to fabricate titanium components in a layer-by-layer manner directly from 3D model data. It allows for the creation of complex titanium parts with high geometrical freedom that are either impossible or very costly to manufacture by traditional methods.

Titanium is an ideal material for additive manufacturing due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance, biocompatibility, and high-temperature performance. However, processing titanium using additive techniques also poses some unique challenges due to its chemical reactivity and anisotropic material properties.

Some key details about titanium additive manufacturing:

  • Commonly used 3D printing methods for titanium are selective laser melting (SLM), electron beam melting (EBM), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).
  • Titanium alloys like Ti-6Al-4V are most widely used but commercially pure titanium and other alloys can also be printed.
  • Allows fabrication of lightweight, complex parts like lattice structures and thin-walled geometries.
  • Produces near net-shape parts, reducing wastage and cost compared to subtractive methods.
  • Provides flexibility in design and consolidation of assemblies into one printed part.
  • Post-processing like hot isostatic pressing (HIP) and machining is often required to achieve desired finish and material properties.
  • Properties comparable or superior to wrought, cast, and forged titanium but anisotropy is a concern.
  • Application areas include aerospace, medical implants, automotive, and chemical plants.
  • Higher cost than traditional manufacturing but economical for small batch sizes and complex parts.

Types of Titanium Additive Manufacturing Processes

Selective Laser Melting (SLM)Uses a laser to selectively melt and fuse metallic powder particles layer by layerMost common and mature technology <br> Good accuracy and surface finish <br> Low porosity in printed parts
Electron Beam Melting (EBM)Uses an electron beam as heat source to melt the materialRelatively fast build rates <br> Parts have higher porosity compared to SLM <br> Only conductive materials can be processed
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)Uses a laser to sinter powder particles and create finished partsHigh accuracy and detail resolution <br> Slightly porous parts requiring infiltration
Directed Energy Deposition (DED)Focuses thermal energy to fuse materials by melting as they are being depositedPrimarily used for adding features and repairs rather than complete parts <br> Higher build rates but lower accuracy
titanium additive manufacturing
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Applications of Titanium Additive Manufacturing

IndustryUses and Examples
AerospaceAircraft and engine components like hydraulic manifolds, valves, housings, brackets
MedicalDental and orthopedic implants, surgical instruments
AutomotiveLightweight parts like manifolds, turbocharger wheels
ChemicalCorrosion-resistant fluid handling parts like pipes, valves, pumps
DefenseLightweight load-bearing components for vehicles and weapons
General engineeringLow-volume custom parts across industries

Specifications for Titanium Additive Manufacturing

ParameterTypical Values
Layer thickness20 – 100 μm
Minimum feature size~100 μm
Surface roughness, Ra10 – 25 μm, higher in overhangs
Build volume50 x 50 x 50 mm to 500 x 500 x 500 mm
Precision± 0.1% to ± 0.2% on dimensions
Porosity0.5 – 1% for SLM, up to 5% for EBM
MicrostructureFine, columnar prior beta grains with alpha laths

Design Considerations for Titanium AM Parts

  • Optimize part orientation to reduce supports and avoid overhangs
  • Use self-supporting angles greater than 45° to avoid supports
  • Thin walls (≤ 1 mm) need higher laser intensities and scan speeds
  • Minimum hole diameter should be ≥ 1 mm
  • Internal channels should be ≥ 2 mm for powder removal
  • Avoid hollow enclosed volumes in part
  • Ensure sufficient wall thickness (2-4 mm) for load-bearing parts
  • Allow for post-processing like machining, drilling, polishing etc.

Standards for Titanium Additive Manufacturing

ASTM F3001Standard specification for additive manufacturing titanium-6 aluminium-4 vanadium ELI (Extra Low Interstitial) with powder bed fusion
ASTM F2924Standard specification for additive manufacturing titanium-6 aluminium-4 vanadium with powder bed fusion
ASTM F3184Standard specification for additive manufacturing stainless steel via powder bed fusion
ISO/ASTM 52921Standard terminology for additive manufacturing – Coordinate systems and test methodologies
ASME BPVC Section IXBoiler and pressure vessel code for additive manufacturing qualifications

Suppliers of Titanium Additive Manufacturing Systems

SupplierPrinter ModelsStarting Price Range
EOSEOS M 100, EOS M 290, EOS M 400$200,000 – $1,500,000
SLM SolutionsSLM® 125, SLM® 280, SLM® 500, SLM® 800$250,000 – $1,400,000
3D SystemsProX® DMP 200, ProX® DMP 300, ProX® DMP 320$350,000 – $1,250,000
GE AdditiveConcept Laser M2, M2 Multilaser, M2 Dual Laser$400,000 – $1,200,000
Velo3DSapphire, Sapphire XC$150,000 – $600,000

Prices vary based on build volume, laser power, and additional features. Additional costs include installation, training, materials, and post-processing.

Operation and Maintenance of Titanium Printers

  • Obtain and follow manufacturer’s operating manual and safety precautions
  • Clean optical system and mirrors to maintain laser power and beam quality
  • Perform calibrations for laser and scanning system periodically
  • Conduct test prints to verify part quality before starting production builds
  • Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) for printing parameters
  • Store and handle titanium powder properly in an inert environment
  • Clean build chamber regularly to remove condensed material and prevent contamination
  • Perform preventative maintenance like greasing linear guides, tightening fasteners, replacing filters

Choosing a Titanium Additive Manufacturing Supplier/Service Bureau

Experience and expertiseYears of experience, trained operators, metal AM expertise
Printer models and specificationsAssess build volume, accuracy, materials etc.
Quality certificationsISO 9001, ISO 13485, Nadcap accreditation
Materials availabilityRange of titanium alloys, particle sizes, customized alloys
Post-processing capabilitiesDebinding, HIP, machining, polishing, coating
Part testing and validationMechanical testing, NDT, metallography
Design supportTopology optimization, design for AM guidelines
Production capacityBatch sizes, lead times, scalability, redundant capacity
CostMachine hourly rates, material prices, additional charges
Client references and reviewsFeedback on service quality from existing clients
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Pros and Cons of Titanium Additive Manufacturing

Complex, lightweight geometries possibleHigher cost than traditional manufacturing for large volumes
Consolidated assemblies and reduced part countLower dimensional accuracy and surface finish than machining
Shorter lead times for low volume batchesPost-processing often required to achieve desired properties
Reduced material wasteAnisotropic material properties and residual stresses
Flexibility in design iterationsSize limitations based on printer build volume
Just-in-time manufacturingPowder removal difficulties for complex internal channels
Parts customization and personalizationPorosity in material necessitating hot isostatic pressing

Differences Between Metal Injection Molding and Additive Manufacturing for Titanium Parts

ParameterMetal Injection MoldingAdditive Manufacturing
ProcessMixing fine metal powder with binders, injection molding, followed by debinding and sinteringLayerwise fusion of titanium powder to build parts directly using lasers or electron beam
Part complexityOnly simple 2.5 D geometries possibleHighly complex shapes like lattices can be printed
Part sizeUp to several inchesLimited by build volume, typically under 20 inches
AccuracyVery high, down to ±0.5% with easy tolerancesModerate, around ±0.2% on dimensions
Surface finishExcellent due to molding processPoorer surface requiring additional post-processing
Mechanical propertiesIsotropic, less residual stressesAnisotropic properties, higher residual stresses
Material optionsLimited alloys and blendsWide range of titanium grades and customized alloys
Setup costsHigh initial tooling investmentLower startup costs
Production quantitiesHigh volumes, up to millions of unitsOptimized for small batches of 10-10,000 units
Lead timeLonger lead time for tooling manufactureShorter time to functional part, rapid design iterations

Comparison Between Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Electron Beam Melting (EBM) for Titanium AM

ParameterSelective Laser Melting (SLM)Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
Heat sourceFocused laser beamHigh-power electron beam
AtmosphereInert argon gasVacuum
Thermal inputHighly localized input from laserBroader input from large electron beam
AccuracyHigher due to finer laser spot sizeLower by 10-100 μm
Surface finishSmoother surface, easier to polishGrainier, porous surface finish
Build speedSlower, approx. 5-20 cm3/hrFaster, upto 45 cm3/hr
Alloys usedTi-6Al-4V, commercially pure Ti, othersMainly Ti-6Al-4V
CostHigher equipment and operating costsLower cost of ownership
PorosityLower porosity, around 0.5%Higher porosity around 5%
MicrostructureFine prior beta grains with alpha lathsCoarser beta grains and acicular alpha’ martensite
Post-processingLower heat treatment needsHIP often required to reduce porosity
Mechanical propertiesHigher strength and ductilityLower strength with higher anisotropy
ApplicationsAerospace, medical implants, automotiveAerospace, biomedical

In summary, SLM offers better accuracy and surface finish while EBM has the advantage of faster build speeds. The layerwise melting process induces residual stresses and anisotropic material properties in both methods.

AlSi12 Powder
PREPed Metal Powders


Q. Which titanium alloys are commonly used in additive manufacturing?

A. Ti-6Al-4V is the most widely used titanium alloy, making up over 50% of titanium AM. Other alloys include Ti-6Al-4V ELI, commercially pure grades 2 and 4 titanium, Ti-6Al-7Nb, and Ti-5Al-5Mo-5V-3Cr.

Q. What types of post-processing are typically needed for additively manufactured titanium parts?

A. Post-processing steps like hot isostatic pressing (HIP), heat treatment, surface machining, drilling, polishing and application of coatings are usually required to achieve desired dimensional accuracy, surface finish, and material properties.

Q. How do the mechanical properties of additively manufactured titanium compare to wrought and cast titanium?

A. AM titanium parts can match or exceed the tensile strength and fatigue strength of wrought and cast titanium. However, AM titanium exhibits anisotropy in properties due to the layered manufacturing unlike traditional methods.

Q. What are some methods used to improve fatigue performance of additively manufactured titanium?

A. Fatigue performance can be improved by applying hot isostatic pressing (HIP), shot peening, chemical etching, machining, and other post-processing steps to induce compressive stresses, remove surface defects, and improve microstructure.

Q. Does additive manufacturing reduce costs for titanium parts compared to traditional methods?

A. For small batch sizes, AM offers significant cost reduction compared to machining from billet. For mass production, the high cost of powder material means AM is still more expensive than casting or forging.

Q. How does the surface roughness of AM titanium compare to CNC machining?

A. As-printed titanium components have a higher surface roughness of 10-25 μm Ra compared to machined surfaces which can achieve under 1 μm Ra. Additional post-processing is required if a smoother surface finish is needed.

Q. What safety precautions are required when handling titanium powder?

A. Titanium powder should be stored in an inert environment to prevent oxidation. Handling procedures must prevent dust formation and inhalation. Powder compartments in machines need inert gas purging and O2 monitoring.

Q. What are some advantages of using AM to manufacture titanium components instead of steel?

A. AM titanium provides a superior strength-to-weight ratio compared to steel. It also offers better corrosion resistance, bio-compatibility, and high temperature performance making it suitable for aerospace, medical, and automotive uses.

Q. How does build orientation affect properties and quality of AM titanium parts?

A. Build orientation can significantly affect residual stresses, surface finish, geometric accuracy and mechanical properties like strength and ductility. Parts are often oriented to minimize support structures.

Q. What are some key considerations when designing parts for additive manufacturing from titanium?

A. Key design considerations include minimizing overhangs, incorporating build supports, maintaining wall thicknesses between 0.8-4 mm, allowing access holes for unfused powder removal, and accounting for post-processing requirements.


Additive manufacturing makes the production of complex titanium components viable and economical compared to conventional methods. With advancing technology and greater adoption, titanium AM enables lighter, stronger, and more capable designs across crucial industries. However, process challenges like residual stresses, anisotropy, surface finish, and standards continue to be addressed through research and development. With further maturation, AM has the potential to realize the full capabilities of titanium metal and transform manufacturing worldwide.

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