New Zealand leads the way in Titanium Additive Manufacturing

May 12, 2014

May 12, 2014

The second International Titanium Powder Processing, Consolidation and Metallurgy Conference, PM Titanium 2013, took place in Hamilton, New Zealand, from December 2-4 2013. The event attracted participants from around the world to discuss the latest advances in the field of titanium powders. Prof Ma Qian of RMIT University (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) reports on a presentation discussing the Additive Manufacturing activities being undertaken at the Titanium Industry Development Association (TiDA) in New Zealand.

Ian Brown of Advanced Materials Group, Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand, and Warwick Downing of Titanium Industry Development Association Inc (TiDA) introduced the New Zealand Titanium Technologies Platform and the Additive Manufacturing (AM) business of titanium in New Zealand, during their presentation “The New Zealand Titanium Technologies Platform – TiTeNZ”.

Funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the goal of the Titanium Technologies Platform is to create a multi-company, multi-sector manufacturing base for high value titanium-based export products.

TiDA and subsidiary company Rapid Advanced Manufacturing Ltd (RAM), now have two Selective Laser Melting machines running from their facility in Tauranga, New Zealand. These machines are two of the few machines commercially available to offer 3D manufacturing in Ti powder and Stainless Steel, with more machines and alloys to follow.

Americas Cup sailor’s knife

Several carefully designed titanium products have been additively manufactured and marketed. The titanium knives made by TiDA and Victory Knives were one such example.

TiDA was first contacted by Victory Knives who needed to urgently design and manufacture light-weight, yet super sharp safety knives for the sailors on board Americas Cup challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand. The entire project was an urgent six-week collaboration between TiDA, Page Macrae Coatings and Victory knives to produce a unique knife design that was ready for racing.


Fig. 1 Selective laser melting (SLM) at work: additively manufactured titanium knives used by sailors on board Americas Cup challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand [1] 

John Bamford, of Victory Knives, set about designing a state of the art small lightweight knife that was strong enough to cut through marine ropes. Bamford and the team at TiDA designed a knife and sheath, 3D printed in Ti-6Al-4V alloy powder, that was then super coated, to produce a knife that can cut super strong marine ropes in one blade stroke compared to the existing knife which took ten strokes (Fig. 1).

“The Americas Cup Safety Team were ecstatic with the fast turnaround and were amazed at the strength of the new product,” stated Bamford. Such was the success this knife will be available to consumers in the near future.

Animal jaw bone

TiDA’s pivotal success has been in turning design projects and prototypes into manufactured parts, far quicker than ever possible with traditional manufacturing options. This fast turnaround saved the life of a dog needing an urgent jaw bone replacement. Axia Design, a New Zealand based design company, contacted TiDA with a CT scan that needed to be urgently printed in Ti-6Al-4V (Fig. 2).

The customised jaw bone was printed from a CT scan and implanted, with a very happy pup back eating within 12 hours. Surgeons commented that the implant was as close to the natural shape as ever seen, which enabled a quick recovery.



Fig. 2 Selective laser melting (SLM) at work: a dog jaw bone replacement manufactured by TiDA. The customised jaw bone was printed from a CT scan and implanted, with a very happy pup back eating within 12 hours [1]

This success has led to a second dog receiving a lifesaving implant, with a view in the near future to manufacture human implants. “Humans are the next logical step for mass customisation,” stated Warwick Downing, TiDA CEO. “In theory, within a few days, we could have a hip joint that is customised for the patient with a designed porous structure allowing bone growth, starting to eliminate some of the problems that traditional joints may have.”

Gun silencer

The titanium weapons suppressors designed and manufactured by TiDA and its partner Oceania Defence are another success of the additive manufacturing story of titanium in New Zealand.

These uniquely designed and additively manufactured titanium weapons suppressors offer excellent performances while being 50% lighter than conventional steel weapons suppressors (Fig. 3). Design played a key role in the success. Several such products have gone into batch productions.



Fig. 3 Selective Laser Melting (SLM) at work – titanium weapons suppressors designed and additively manufactured by TiDA and its partner Oceania Defence [1]

Research and Technology Partnership

Client success has driven industry firsts with the technology used to solve engineering design issues. With products moving from prototyping into production, new titanium products are now being additively manufactured and are in the marketplace already.

To promote the growth in research in this arena, TiDA has recently announced a Research and Technology Partnership with Callaghan Innovation, a New Zealand based Government Research Organisation. “Following the investment Callaghan has recently provided in Selective 3D machinery,

New Zealand is leading the way in research that supports the growing manufacturing industry in titanium alloy metals,” stated Downing.

The resulting outcomes will be driven into the commercial arena, with both TiDA and Callaghan having established close links within this growing Industry. Currently, designers, engineers and researchers are working closely with clients on several titanium projects in New Zealand. Led by TiDA, the Additive Manufacturing business in New Zealand has clearly shown a good start.


[1] I. Brown, W. Downing, “The New Zealand Titanium Technologies Platform – TiTeNZ”, Presentation at The 2013 International Titanium Powder Processing, Consolidation and Metallurgy Conference (PM Titanium 2013), 2-4 December 2013, Hamilton, New Zealand. 

Author: Dr Ma Qian, Professor of Advanced Manufacturing and Materials, School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering RMIT University (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology), GPO Box 2476, Melbourne VIC 3001, Australia


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