Titanium alloys have excellent mechanical properties and corrosion resistance combined with low specific weight and good biocompatibility. Use of this material in rapid prototyping applications began around 2006. Since then, there have been advances in both the material and in the direct metal laser sintering equipment that can work with it.
With titanium alloys and laser sintering, you can build hollow, lightweight structures. So far, the main applications for laser-sintered titanium are in medical and dental devices, aerospace and motor sports, and the fashion industry. A commonly used material is EOS Titanium Ti64, which is Ti6Al4V alloy in fine powder form. In some medical cases an extra-low interstitial (ELI) version of this powder is used or commercially pure titanium powder. The EOS EOSINT M 270 direct metal laser sintering system handles part production of this material.
Mike Shellabear, vice president, Metal Technology, EOS, said: “Titanium applications tend to be demanding. The medical and aerospace markets in particular require excellent part properties, and demand that the production machines and process chains reliably achieve these. We see growing interest in and acceptance of DMLS as a production method for titanium. We expect to see rapid growth in this area.”
The following examples show the impressive scope of application areas that have used laser-sintered titanium:
Leader Italia s.r.l. has developed a special range of dental implant screws called TiXos, which were specially designed for production on EOSINT M 270 systems. The screws are grown by melting the metal powder together, avoiding material waste.
Dental implant screw
The laser exposure is controlled to produce a hybrid structure comprising a fully dense body with a porous surface morphology, which eliminates the need for coating and offers enhanced bioactivity. Because no tooling is needed, different types and sizes of screw can be produced within each job, according to demand. FutureFactories, a UK-based company, uses e-Manufacturing to create novel fashion and consumer products. They have used laser sintering to create plastic lamps and chairs as well as metal jewelry products with eye-catching geometries.
Titanium fashion jewelry
With the Icon pendant, the company broke new ground by producing a limited edition of commercial products, each one unique but based on a common meta-design, thereby implementing mass-individualization. The design comprises intertwining free-form shapes, and was implemented in titanium because it would be virtually impossible to produce by conventional methods. The laser-sintered pendants are built fully dense and polished to produce the desired aesthetic appearance.
Kerrie Luft is a British footwear designer. She uses rapid prototyping of titanium to create complex geometry for shoe heels. The filigree structures of the high heels required a high strength material, and titanium was chosen.
Leader Italia s.r.l.