The PM Titanium conference series, previously held in Brisbane, Australia (2011), Hamilton, New Zealand (2013), Lüneburg, Germany (2015) and Xi’an, China (2017), is a key international event for those involved in the powder metallurgical processing of titanium and its alloys. In September 2019 the event reached its fourth continent, North America, with PMTi2019 being held at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA.
In the latest issue of PIM International (Vol. 13 No. 4), Dr Thomas Ebel reviewed a selection of conference papers from PMTi2019 that suggest that progress on the sinter-based processing of titanium and titanium alloys continues to mature, with cost reduction a major focus of research. While the number of presentations focusing specifically on Metal Injection Moulding (MIM) was lower than in previous years, Ebel notes a trend toward presentations on ‘MIM-like’ AM technologies such as Binder Jetting (BJT) and Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).
These technologies enable the production of single parts or small series of parts without the need for a mould or tooling. Binder Jetting is currently being developed into a production technology, with the aim to facilitate the manufacturing of large numbers of parts; these efforts have been widely publicised, and complete production systems including an AM machine, debinding and sintering furnace are now available to purchase.
It is clear from these widely-publicised developments that sintering and the use of feedstocks comprised of metal powder and binder remain very attractive manufacturing technologies. In addition, some, such as FFF, are comparatively cheap to set up and run, making them an attractive entry-level technology for companies new to metal Additive Manufacturing.
However, not all of these technologies were originally developed for the processing of titanium, the sintering of which remains comparatively difficult. To reliably sinter this material and its alloys, specialist equipment and processing considerations may be required to achieve results equivalent to those attainable by non-powder-based technologies.
The papers reviewed by Ebel showed promising progress toward addressing these considerations, and reinforced the position of sinter-based AM again as one of the most important areas of research in titanium processing. The key application areas highlighted, such as aerospace and medical devices, offer a promising potential market for these technologies if the challenges of titanium sintering can be addressed.