The Aerospace Advantage
Titanium: Exotic, Expensive, Rare?
Titanium has an image of being a rare, hard to get, difficult to work with material. Titanium is an element, atomic number 22 on the periodic table. Titanium is the fourth most abundant metal on our planet. Titanium is most often mined as the ore rutile or ilmenite.
Titanium was not discovered until nearly 1800 and only processed into pure metal in 1910. Over the last four decades has titanium has seen significant growth as a commercial product. Titanium is abundant but difficult to refine and process. Unlike Aluminum which is economically refined using an electrical process, titanium is commercially produced by reducing titanium tetrachloride with molten magnesium. The difficulty in manufacturing structural titanium metal, not its rarity, is responsible for titanium's high cost.
Nearly all titanium metal used for production is an alloy. Like other pure metals, pure titanium requires the addition of other elements to achieve the structural properties that performance applications demand. The most common alloy in use (60% of all alloy production) is Ti 6-4, an alloy of 6% aluminum and 4% vanadium. This common titanium alloy possesses a tensile strength of 135,000 psi. For Aerospace applications RCS uses Beta-C alloy certified to multiple aerospace specifications.
Titanium enjoys a space-age reputation as it has been heavily used on aerospace applications from commercial airliners to stealth fighters and satellites. That reputation is undergoing change as many performance applications are beginning to realize the benefits available from highly engineered titanium products. Titanium springs are a large part of this change. Until recently titanium springs were only found on weight sensitive and demanding aerospace applications. Today, RCS is directing it's expertise with this material to developing high-quality, high-performance parts for applications from downhill mountain bike suspension springs to incredibly precision titanium springs for Formula 1 racing.