Military method slashes titanium production by 50%

Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl) Porton Down military research base have reduced the 40-stage titanium production process down to just two, which could cut costs in half.

Titanium is used by the military in everything from cutting-edge nuclear submarines to fighter jets and replacement limbs however, it has been prohibitive for widespread use as it costs 10 times as much as steel and is difficult to make.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “This ground-breaking method is not only faster and cheaper but could see a huge expansion of titanium parts and equipment throughout the military.”

He added that the Porton Down method was a clear example of how “world-class scientists are working behind the scenes to help our Armed Forces as well as bringing prosperity and security to Britain.”

Small-scale trials have been carried out, the MoD said, but a new large-scale fast furnace facility – jointly funded by Dstl and Kennametal Manufacturing – has been built and will enable the production of larger components for testing.

Principal scientist for materials science at Dstl, Matthew Lunt, said the innovation could “cut the production cost of titanium parts by up to 50%. With this reduction in cost, we could use titanium in submarines, where corrosion resistance would extend the life, or for light-weight requirements like armoured vehicles.”

“Such components have mechanical properties equivalent to forged product,” he added. “For titanium alloys, FAST-forge will provide a step change in the cost of components, allowing use in automotive applications such as powertrain and suspension systems.”