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CSIRO develops low-cost titanium wire for 3D printing from alloy waste

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has developed a novel process to transform inexpensive alloy waste into high-value titanium wire for 3D printing. 

The CSIRO team is reportedly the first in Australia to produce titanium wire in this way, the product of which can be used to make 3D printed parts such as aerospace components. By repurposing titanium alloy particulates like machining swarf, the resulting 3D printable wire is significantly cheaper than titanium wire made by conventional processes.

The wire is being fine-tuned for use in large format 3D printing processes such as electron beam manufacturing and Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM), and will help to increase Australia’s national capability in wire production for 3D printing. 

CSIRO’s patented wire extrusion process

According to CSIRO, the global market for titanium wire is worth over AUD $200 million, and there is lucrative demand for the 2.5 mm to 3 mm variety as feed for wire-additive manufacturing. Furthermore, the cheaper wire fabricated from recycled sources can also be used to produce metal powders for 3D printing.

The organization’s patented wire extrusion process is optimized using computational modeling and is capable of producing 50 kg of titanium wire at pilot scale. The team is seeking to scale up this amount to between 100-300 kg over the coming months, which will pave the way for Australian 3D printing companies to reduce the amount of titanium wire they source from offshore. 

“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,” said Barrie Finnin, CEO of 3D printing firm Amaero International. “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 is formed from low-cost alloy waste such as machining swarf particulates which can be used to make large complex parts for the aerospace, biomedical, defense, marine, automotive, construction and consumer goods industries. CSIRO’s research is supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund.

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

Recycled 3D printing materials

The notion of the circular economy – a concept that seeks to make optimum use of resources in order to avoid waste – is being increasingly applied within the 3D printing sector in the form of recycling and reusing waste materials as feedstock. 

This year alone, engineers from McGill University and Ryerson University have turned environmentally damaging wind turbine waste into a robust new PLA 3D printing material, chemical producer SABIC and car maker Local Motors have recycled 3D printing scrap with up to 100 percent efficacy, and Polymaker and Covestro are debuting a new PC-R filament made from recycled water bottles.

Elsewhere, scientists from the Swinburne University of Technology and Hebei University of Technology have turned construction waste into a sustainable new 3D printing material, and car manufacturer Ford and 3D printer OEM HP are teaming up to recycle 3D printing waste into end-use automotive parts.

CSIRO's titanium wire for additive manufacturing. Photo via CSIRO.
CSIRO’s titanium wire for additive manufacturing. Photo via CSIRO.

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

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