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3D PRINTED TITANIUM: THE FUTURE OF AUTOMOTIVES?

25-08-2016
by 
in 

According to SmarTech Publishing’s latest report on additive manufacturing with titanium, 3D-printed titanium will have a critical strategic role in producing low-weight, highly efficient cars.

Within the automotive industry, the motorsports sector will be the primary users of 3D-printed titaniumparts.  At present the value of the titanium consumed is tiny. 

However, by 2019, the value of titaniumconsumed by the automotive sector will exceed $10 million and by 2024 it will be close to $50 million.  Throughout the period we expect to see titanium demand within the automotive sector come mostly from continued use for high-performance parts in racing vehicles.  By 2024, the automotive is expected to utilize 103 metric tons in annual demand of titanium and titanium alloys powders.

Several factors suggest to us that 3D-printed titanium has a future in the automotive industry:

# 1: 3D-printed titanium is already being used.  As the picture of activity at Monash Motorsport shows below, there is already some serious activity in this space.   So there are already small beachheads for printed titanium in car manufacturing of a certain sort

#2: Perfect for lightweighting.  For non-cost sensitive automotive industry projects with a lightweighting goals, 3D-printed titanium is the ideal material; both 3d-printing and titanium contribute to making parts lighter.  Combining them would be a winning combination.  This may prove even truer as electric cars become more commonplace, with lighter car bodies and parts playing an even greater role in increasing fuel economy.

#3: Improved titanium-based designs.  Automotive manufacturers have struggled with integration oftitanium into designs, but 3D printing is helping to break down barriers thanks to increased production effectiveness. In our opinion, 3D printing could prove to be a catalyst to for further use of titanium in automotive, with eventual benefits in terms of increased product performance for the car industry as a whole.

The impact of these market drivers is expected to accelerate as the cost of titanium additive manufacturing goes down. Efforts to reduce these costs are already underway. 

These consist of (1) reduction of AM system cost itself, as well as (2) alternate titanium powder production methods to reduce actual material cost per kilogram of titanium. Both avenues would ultimately reduce cost of 3D printed titanium parts for automobile manufactures and potentially result in increased titanium powder demand in the automobile industry

It is still not immediately clear if 3D printed titanium will make significant inroads beyond the motorsports segment and into commercial vehicle markets.  Other metals could prove more efficient and cost effective for automotive parts production.

On the other hand due to its excellent weight-to-strength ratio, titanium may prove particularly effective in driving 3D printing adoption in the automotive industry as a whole.

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