New Titanium Facility Opens Doorway to Billion Dollar Export Market

Friday 2 July 2010, 4:04PM
By Village PR


A state-of-the-art facility designed to help launch a new billion dollar export industry in New Zealand opens today in Tauranga.

The Applied Powder Metallurgy Centre will help companies develop and test revolutionary new titanium products.

The Centre has been set up by TiDA (the Titanium Industry Development Association) with funding from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and is regarded as a key step in helping create a lucrative new
export market for titanium products.

TiDA’s chairman Ian Macrae says the overall goal is to help industry adopt powder metallurgy technology.

“We’re looking at developing a mini Silicon Valley in powder metallurgy right here in New Zealand and this new facility is essentially the seed for what will become a huge high-tech industry,” says Macrae.

Powder metallurgy is the term used to describe the number of different ways of turning metal powder into solid objects. These consolidation methods allow high-quality metal components to be manufactured
with precision so there is little or no need for further machining.

Titanium parts are used by a diverse range of industries such as aerospace, industrial, medical and automotive where no other metal is able to achieve the same range of properties.

Examples of what can be made include hip joints, metal plates for implants, surgical tools, cogs, nozzles, jet engine parts, sports equipment, filters and advanced coatings.

Macrae says the Centre contains the latest technology available to help companies create their products. “Essentially it is a one-stop shop for design, prototyping, small-scale manufacturing and physical
properties testing.

“Concern for our environment means people want a clean and low cost manufacturing process using light and strong materials.

“The market for titanium powder metallurgy is still small but it presents an opportunity for immense growth, particularly as cheaper powder metallurgy processes are developed,” Macrae explains.

Stainless steel and aluminum powders are still the main materials for powder metallurgy but titanium and titanium alloys offer unparalleled advantages.

Titanium has the highest strength to weight ratio of any metal; is lightweight; corrosion resistant; is the fourth most abundant metal in the earth’s crust; has low electrical and thermal conductivity; good ductility;
excellent fracture resistance; non-magnetic property; non-toxicity; biocompability; cryogenic properties; shape memory properties; and hydrogen affinity (for hydrogen storage).

The new facility is divided into several different laboratories. A small scale lab will be used for marco and micro hardness testing. A Scanning Electron Microscope will provide microscopy information and X-ray
Florescence equipment will allow for material composition analysis.

A wet lab is available for precision sample preparation and corrosion testing, while a large lab will be used for physical properties testing including tensile, compression and flexure testing and precision cutting.

A vacuum furnace for sintering and heat treatment is also being installed and will allow prototypes to be made which can then undergo vigorous testing to establish the product’s mechanical and thermal properties,
and microstructures, among other things.

TiDA also has access to a range of powder consolidation technologies including laser sintering, extruding, forging, powder injection moulding, and coating.

“If companies can draw a new product, we can now help them make it. Up until now a lot of designs have been inconceivable but we’re leading the world in many ways.”

The engineering and manufacturing industry is becoming increasingly high-tech. TiDA is enabling New Zealand companies to be at the leading edge of technology and enter the Titanium Age.

TiDA’s Applied Powder Metallurgy Centre is part of a much larger engineering facility based at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic’s Windermere campus.
The facility will be a welcome addition for students studying high-end engineering and associated trade qualifications.

Dr Alan Hampton, the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic’s chief executive and TiDA deputy chairman, says the polytechnic has leased space to TiDA as part of the institution’s new Engineering and Welding workshops.

“Through its new National Diploma in Process Materials, the Polytechnic will develop technician training for the application of powder consolidation and, through its partnership with the University of Waikato,
will provide a seamless pathway to degree completion,” says Dr Hampton.

Impressively, this will be the only place in New Zealand where students can start their apprentice training and continue their study right through to doctorate level – all in the one facility.

TiDA is encouraging companies to take an active role in the product development cycle, Macrae says. “They can come and spend time in the facility working with equipment operators to understand the testing
methods and translate those into the product design to ensure the best outcome.

“Alternatively, TiDA is happy to run individual tests for companies and to run a project for a company through the development and test phase using both internal and external resources.”

Any companies who are interested in making use of this outstanding facility are welcome to contact TiDA immediately by visiting www.tida.co.nz or emailing info@tida.co.nz.

About TiDA
TiDA (Titanium Industry Development Association) was formed to help New Zealand companies develop ground-breaking titanium products for the international marketplace.
TiDA has been set up in conjunction with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Foundation for Research Science and Technology, Tertiary Education Commission and a number of private sector companies to help co-ordinate industry activities now and in the future.