CSIRO develops cheap titanium wire for additive manufacturing

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Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has developed a novel process for turning inexpensive alloy waste into a high value wire product suitable for the additive manufacturing market. 

The team is the first in Australia to produce titanium wire this way. They used low-cost titanium alloy particulates, like machining swarf, to produce a wire that can be used to make 3D printed parts such as aerospace components. 

“The result is a product that is significantly cheaper than titanium wire made by conventional processes,” CSIRO team leader Dr Robert Wilson said. 

The wire is being fine-tuned for use in large format additive manufacturing such as Sciaky electron beam manufacturing and Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM). These are processes that melt the wire to form beads, which stick together to create a layer of metal material that is then built up to form the 3D printed part. 

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CSIRO researchers are scaling up titanium wire production to pre-commercial volumes using their patented process, tested here on copper.

The global market for titanium wire is worth over $200 million.  

There is a lucrative market for 2.5mm to 3mm titanium wire as feed for this type of wire-additive manufacturing, and the cheaper wire generated from recycled sources can also be used to produce metal powders for 3D printing.  

The patented wire extrusion process, which is optimised using computational modelling, is being demonstrated to produce 50kg of titanium wire at pilot scale. The team is working to scale this up to 100-300kgs pre-commercial volumes over coming months.  

 Australia is well represented in various types of wire manufacturing, but until now has lacked sovereign capability in wire production for additive manufacturing. 

“Currently, Australian additive manufacturers have to source their titanium wire offshore, but this new capability will change that,” Australasian Wire Industry Association director Richard Newbigin said. 

Locally produced titanium alloy wire and powders offer a valuable local capability for Australia’s growing additive manufacturing sector. 

“This technology has the potential to put Australia on the map as a competitive supplier of aerospace grade titanium alloy wire for additive manufacturing and will greatly impact on our global competitiveness,” Amaero International CEO Barrie Finnin said. 

“Even better, the end product will be comparable to what is currently available overseas, but much cheaper because it is using waste product.”  

The wire can be used to make large complex parts for markets including aerospace, biomedical, defence, marine, automotive, construction and consumer goods. 

This research is supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF). 

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