PROCESSING TITANIUMProcessing titanium with traditional metal processing technologies is difficult and in some instances can be hazardous. Titanium is very strong, exhibits low thermal conductivity, and can be chemically reactive with tool materials at high temperatures. This means that tools may not work the metal effectively, and will wear out disproportionately quickly. In addition, the relatively low Young’s modulus of titanium alloys leads to spring-back and chatter when machining causing poor surface quality on the finished product. Also, if turning and drilling, long continuous chips are produced, which can lead to entanglement with the cutting tool, making automated machining nearly impossible. Conventional processing methods when applied to titanium can take up to 100 times longer to make components than is the case when processing alternative metals. Production methods for processing titanium need to be fast and minimise waste to be considered economical, and here PCE comes into its own. However, while PCE overcomes some of the issues faced by conventional metal processing technologies, standard etching chemistries do not work when applied to titanium, and so the focus is on adapting the science so that the inherent characteristics of titanium which prohibit machining are overcome. One such issue is that when exposed to air, titanium forms a protective oxidised coating which is extremely difficult to dissolve, and so etchant chemistries have been developed that cut through this layer and allow the processing of the base material. Most of the limited number of PCE suppliers that can process titanium turn to the use of hydrofluoric acid as an etchant material, but this is a hazardous and potentially environmentally damaging substance, and the requirements for chemical containment and extraction means that it is an expensive process and one that adds cost to finished parts. micometal (incorporating Etchform and HP Etch) is one of the only PCE providers that does not use hydrofluoric acid, and therefore customers can benefit from the strength, light-weight, heat and corrosion resistant attributes of titanium at a low cost and without the use of dangerous chemicals.
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