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Chapter 3 BACKGROUND OF THE U . S . TITANIUM IN1)USTRY A special ambiance has surrounded titanium' s f irst three decades. The titanium industry developed as quickly as that of any structural metal in history and with unprecedented involvement of the government as bankrolled, customer, research and development sponsor and participant , allocator (during shortages), and scourge (in the price-fixing trials of the 1970s). Its development also featured the ad hoc creation of a unique consortium of government, industry (both producer and user), academia, and research institutes that selected alloys from the laboratory and pilot-produced and established them ready for production via a multiyear, multimillion dollar program reflecting the national interest.* All this was accompanied by an unprecedented, spontaneous, worldwide research and development effort reported in a continuing series of international symposia held every four years. This chapter touches on some of the aspects of this background that aid in elucidating titanium' first three decades and that cast some light on its probable future. This chapter touches on some of the aspects of this background that aid in elucidating titanium's first three decades and that cast some light on its probable future. Unique Features Important aspects of the story of structural titanium metal are unique in the annals of metallurgical history. Mysterious, fascinating, exciting, frustrating, unusual, expensive, lavish, vital, critical--such are the terms used to describe titanium's development from the curiosity of the 1930s and 1940s through its short adolescence to its high degree of maturity in the l950s, an early maturity that ironically has created its current problem of incipient obsolescence in the United States. Only in the case of the Manhattan Project for the development of enriched uranium and the atomic bomb has there been a concentration of scientific, technical, and financial support for a single metal (certainly to a single structural metal) similar to that devoted to titanium from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. Never did a metal receive such attention, not only technically but also from the political arena and the world of finance. No other structural metal--normally considered a mundane subject--has been so extravagantly and variously described as the "Wonder *The Titanium Alloy Sheet Rolling Program of 1954-1962. 11
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12 Metal" (at f irst for its wonderful properties and later, during periodic dips in demand, for the wonder of where the next order was coming from), the "Middleweight Champion of the Elements , the "Cinderella Metal, " the " Glamour Metal, " and the "Metal of Promise . " No other metal has continued to play, over a period of almost 40 years, to standing-room-only audiences in technical symposia or has been the exclusive sub ject of a continuing series of international conf erences . This has been the case because titanium (by itself or as an alloy) offers a unique combination of physical, mechanical, and chemical properties. From the beginning, it promised much to the designers in the vi tat, youthf ul aircraf t and inf ant jet engine industries and was plentiful beyond serious concern In many places around the globe, including the United States. Titanium's primary association with a single industry, aerospace, is another unique aspect of the material. Currently a full three-fourths of titanium production goes to this industry and a major portion of this is for defense applications. This situation has had a major effect on the structure of the titanium industry that probably will continue in the near future. To the aerospace industry, titanium has become a glamorous recess' ty. Its high strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight ratios, outstanding corrosion rest stance, and other highly desirable attributes originally promised enormous improvements in the performance of aerospace vehicles. This appeal not only exists but is reflected in ever-widening applications. Pre-Industrial History Titanium (as an oxide) was recognized as early as 1790 (by Gregor, an English clergyman) and partially ductile nuggets of the metal were produced in 1910 by M. A. Hunter, an American professor. It was not until the mid-1920s, however, that small wires of ultra-pure, ductile titanium were produced by the Dutch scientists Van Axkel, de Boer, and Fa st by dissociation of the tetraiodide, a technique invented by General Electric's Irving Langmuir. Inspired by this development, W. J. Kroll, a prototypic lone inventor of Luxembourg, began experiments that led to his demonstration in 1937 of the magnesium reduction process that bears his name and continues to be the primary process for producing titanium. Kroll's demonstration, essential though it proved to be, was only on the laboratory scale, and a decade of pilot experimentation was required before the first trial production could be attempted. The pilot work was launched and conducted by the U. S . Bureau of Mines in 1938 under the guidance of R. S. Dean, and coworkers (Dean and Silkes, Dean et al. 1946) . Af ter studying virtually every process that had been proposed for the production of titanium, they concluded that the Kroll process was the most practical for large-scale operations. By 1947, the Bureau had successfully piloted several important modifications of the original process and had produced 2 tons of sponge metal.
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13 The Start of the Industry In 1948, based on the Bureau's work, E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company built and started production in the world' s f ~ rst titanium sponge production facility. The first commercial titanium from du Pont was melted and processed to sheet by Rem-Cru Titanium and then sold f or experimental use to Republic Aviation for the Thunderjet and to North American Aviation for the Sabre jet. Also ~ n 1948, 200 industrial, technical, government, and military leaders met in a Navy-sponsored conference and the titanium industry was off to an enthusiastic start with aircraft designers excited and planning early application. By 1953, annual production was 2 million pounds, and the Douglas DC-7 flew with titanium nacelles and firewal~s. Demand and production grew rapidly. To the aircraft and titanium industries it was euphoria, the first heady upswing in the production curve ~ Figure 1) . So great was the demand for titanium that in 1957 the U.S. Air Force inf ormed the sponge producers that "we face a shortage. " However, the ecstasy of 1957 was transformed into the agony of 1958, the first of the many o scillations in supply and demand that have plagued the industry (Figures 2-5~. Military strategy shifted from dependence on manned aircraf ~ to emphasis on missiles, 0 f the ti tanium incus try ~ dropped and military demand ~ then the lif e-blood dramatically and, consequently, so did titanium production and sponge prices. The surviving titanium producers of that period, deserve a lasting tribute for their faith and perseverance. The IJ. S. titanium industry has suffered from these periodic reverse, s. In the l950s it was the world leader both in technical know-how and quantitative production but now has lost its early worldwide lead in sponge production to the Soviet Union and Japan although it continues to meet most domestic titanium needs. The outlook f or the U . S. titanium industry' s future is made brighter by the recent conversion of the Teledyne Wah Chang Albany zirconium sponge production facility to vacuum-distilled titanium sponge production. Included in this brighter note is the extant introduction of the D-H Titanium Company electrowinning process, the continued pilot production by TIMET of its own electrowinning process, plus the planned new facility of International Titanium, Inc., that is based on the latest Japanese and U.S. Kroll technology. It is important to remember that aerospace requirements continuously have dominated the demand portion of the titanium production and consumption equation. Both the military and civilian sectors provide demand projections but their reliability is questionable for reasons related to military philosophy, national budget, national economic health, airline strength, foreign competition in aircraft, and several other factors. (Many of these are discussed by the military itself in Appendix D. ~ Encouragingly, the nonaerospace applications for titanium (see Chapters 8, 9, and 10) are increasing, and this should provide increased stabilization and incentives to the U. S . titanium industry.
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G 14 1950 1955 1 960 1965 1970 1975 1980 Emerging Gas Century Series Turb'ne Powered F 100 A'rcraft F101 FJ2 F 102 B52H FJ3 F104 BS7 Government FJ4 F105 KC135 Overcommitment f3H F106 Manned Aircraft Deemphasized in Favor of Missile Strategy B-58 A-11 Missile Bu ild-up "Titan" YF-1 2A Minuteman I "Polaris" F8 V.N. F8111 F111 RFIII F-14 Post War Retrenchment F-1 5 F-14and F-15 Production Peak B1 Cancelled Reexaminat~on of Military Posture F5 _ 1 11 11 11 F4 XB-70 Series -C D J,K E,M C-141 OV-10 _ I P3 Hel icopters F-16 Development F-18 AWACS B1 Development , - . . ~Range results from wide~anging data 1985 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 Ml LLIONS OF POUNDS Figure 2 Military aerospace and other titanium use. SR-71 C5A
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15 1950 1 955 1960 1965 CC "\ 1 970 1975 1 980 T. . . Itanlum In Commercial Aircraft Commerc ial Airl ins Fleet Bu ild-up SST R&D ~ ~sivl! ROW Materiills Pureh:'sing Program Wide Bodied Lets SST Cancelled Energy Crunch Airline Retrenchment DC-7 DC ~B-707 Design B-720 and Derivatives Convair 880 B-727 DC-9 DC-10 B-2707 (SST) B-737 B-747 B-727 L-101 1 STRETCH Business Jets OC-9 STRETCH Convair 990 B-757 Range resu Its f roan wide-ranging data 1 985 ~ I 1 3 ZO 30 40 Ml LLIONS OF POUNDS Figure 3 Commercial aerospace titanium use. 1 1 1 1 50 60
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16 1950 1955 1 960 - a: LU 1965 1970 1 975 1980 Reported Range 1985 ~- Hardware for: Corrosion resistant applications Pumps, valves, piping, vessels, mixers IVechanical advantages Centrifuges, ultrasonics (pickups), memory Chemical, electromagnetic, electronic Vacuum gettering, cryogenics, condensers Sports equipment Golf, tennis, sailing, climbing, bicycling Holding baskets for nickel electroplating Medical prosthetic devices Hip, knee, finger joints; pacemaker cases High performance automotive appl ications Marine deck fittings, piping systems Cathodes: electrorefining and electrowinning (Cu.) Anodes: Chlorine and chlorates production itydrometallurgical processing (Ni ores) Desalination plants Pulp and paper industry Electric power generation: Surface condensers, turbine blades Chemical and petrochemical production Fossil fue' production (down-hole equipments _ ~._ ~ 0 1 0 20 30 40 MILLIONS OF POUNDS Fissure 4 Industrial sector titanium use. 50 60
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1950 rim t955 - 960 ~ 1965 UJ 1970 975 1 10 20 30 40 50 60 t 985 . 0 t 0 20 30 40 50 60 : , _ 17 Emerging Gas Turbine Powered Aircraft Titanium in Commercial Aircraft Department of Defense Excitement and Overcommitment Military Manned Aircraft Deemphasized in Favor of Missile Strategy Missile Build-up Commercial Airline Fleet Expansion Programs - VIET NAM Build-up - A-1 1 YF12A SR-71 SST R&D Inventory Adjustmenu Vl ET NAM PEAK PRODUCTION Post V let Nam R etrenchment SST X Wid~bodied Jet Build-up F14 and F15 Production Peak Energy Crunch Airline Retrenchment Nonaerospace Use Increasing B1 Cancelled '`The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune!" 1 1 1 1 1 1 Ml LLIONS OF POUNDS Inventory Build-up Figure ~ Titanium mill product shipments (million of pounds).
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18 The heterogeneous structure of today ' s U . S. . titanium industry is another important factor in considering its capability to satisfy future national needs. In the early years, it was natural Chat nrim~rv An lay in producing sponge. Encouraged t ~ ~ ~ . _ ~ . ~ = ~ by government aid (for a new material already considered extremely important to defense) through the medium of procurement contracts, a number of companies entered the field. These actions were inspired by the enthusiasm of both the government and the aircraft industry and anticipation of continued, if not astronomical, growth in demand. The new companies often were composed of two other companies, one of which was a steel manufacturer that contributed presses and aging hand sheet mills. These new firms included REM-CPU (formed by Remington Arms and Crucible Steel), Titanium Metals Corporation of America (TMCA) and it TIMET division (formed by National Lead and Allegheny Ludlum Steel), CRAMET (formed by Crane Company and Republic Steel), Dow Chemical, Union Carbide, RMI Company ~ originally f armed as Mallory Sharon Titanium Corporation by Mallory and Sharon Steel and later replaced by National Distillers and U. S. Steel), and others of more limited activity. s The enthusiasm prevalent at that time was further fostered by congressional hearings that strongly encouraged rapid expansion of facilities to meet anticipated military requirements. However, within a relatively few years, confronted by technical and production problems and by diminishing demand from military sources, most of these companies left the t itanium f ield . By 1966 only two, INCA and RMI, remained, but OREMET began operations on a small scale to increase the total to three 5.S. producers. It is significant that a steel company is a part owner of all three and that the participating organizations are mainly concerned with industrial interests other than titanium. This obviously influences capital investment decisions. (A list of present and prospective titanium sponge producers worldwide and their capacities is given in Chapter 10.) Inf restructure of the Industry The production of sponge is a capital- and technology-intensive operation, and as a result, the total number of sponge producers throughout the world is quite small. With the virgin metal available, primarily as sponge, the next major step is conversion into ingot by melting, f allowed by conversion into mill or cast products. Powder metal technology is another possibility (see Chapter 11~. The infrastructure of the titanium industry, beyond the raw material (ore) stage, may therefore be broadly divided into three categories: sponge producers, ingot melters, and product converters. A fourth somewhat different Category may be identified as the scrap dealers and scrap reclaimers. Thin these broad categories, however, there are additional subdivisions.
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19 Among the sponge producers are integrated producers that cover the whole gamut from sponge (in one case even a direct interest in ore) to final mill product. Among the melters are integrated producers that melt their own sponge. The other nonintegrated melters buy their sponge from domestic or foreign sources and either convert the ingots themselves, have the ingots converted by others on a toll basis, or sell ingots to other companies for conversion. The converters (including forgers) buy either ingots or mill products (e.g., billets or bars) for further processing. Figure 6 diagrams these structural d ivi signs . The scrap processors obtain scrap from numerous sources (e.g., sponge, ingot, foundry, sheet trimmings, bar ends, turnings, scrapped parts). Indeed, every stage from sponge to finished product is a source for scrap. Several dealers already acquire scrap for furnace consolidation and recovery, and advanced reclamation techniques are under development. The rather complex infrastructure illustrated in Figure 6 is a cause of some of the problems in the sponge supply and demand re lationship. For example, sponge f rom an integrated U . S . producer, although satisfactory for its own operation, usually is not universally suitable for the independent melters (Chapters 5 and 6' In addition, during threatened shortages, the integrated producers understandably tend to retain their sponge for their own use, aggravating the situation for the nonintegrated melters. The latter therefore have tended to rely primarily on foreign sources (Chapter 8~. They do this partly to assure a source of supply and part ly because of the price, and superior melting quality of the f oreign sponge ~ Chapter s 5 and 6 ~ . lIo st domestic producers f avor the current import tarif f on sponge but two new U.S. producers and the nonintegrated melters are opposed to it. The tariff clearly has not functioned to promote plant modernization. It would therefore be useful for an ad hoc panel to be appointed to develop recommendations on what ad valo rem tax, if any, the United States should impose on future sponge imports. Furthermore, the foreign sources increasingly are converting their sponge to ingot or subsequent product stages. This development may further increase the current vulnerability of the nonintegrated melters to foreign sponge shortages. Model for Cooperative Research and Development It is worth mentioning, before completing this brief review, an activity that conceivably could serve as a precedent for significant titanium research and development (R&D) programs in the future. The activity was known as the Titanium Alloy Sheet Rolling Program and was pursued in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In recognition of the need
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SPONG E Powder Fraction at.. INGOTS _ 1 | Castings | rMILLPRODuCTs ~ . _ 20 U.S. SPONGE PRODUCERS ~- _ _ ~_ U.S. SPONGE MELTERS _ _ . Foreign Sponge | INGOTS CONVERTERS , 1 Castings | | MILL PRODUCTS: __ 1 ~ CONSUM ERS | CONSUMERS I . _ _ reincludes companies whose only business is castings. "Companies who do not melt but who make product from ingot, mill products, or powder; not necessarily all U.S.-based (e.~., Atlas Steel of Canada). Figure 6 Infrastructure of the U. ~ 1 ~ | Refined Products | , CONSUMERS . titanium incus try e
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21 for a high-strength, heat-treatable, workable, sheet alloy, a joint program was initiated by the three military services and the Department of Defense to develop and bring such an alloy to early production. Aided by the Materials Advisory Board (predecessor to the NMAB) of the National Research Council, an integrated program was devised. It started with discuss) ons with aircraf t designers and continued through alloy development and production to technical evaluation and data acquisition in laboratories and aircraft plants. Aside from its very considerable technical success (still pertinent), the activity was impressive, noteworthy, and unprecedented in terms of outstanding planning, coordination, cooperation, and implementation among a number of government agencies, industrial organizations, academic institutions, and industrial research laboratories. This program was efficient, economical, and productive, and an organized program of similar dimensions may well be an optimum means to explore one or more of the technical opportunities described in Chapter 11 of this report.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: