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Chapter 1 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The panel's charge was to assess the capability of the U.S. to meet current and anticipated titanium needs. In the past, the U.S. titanium industry served the nation's needs well under difficult circumstances. Major among these were sudden cycles of severe shortages, hasty construction of additional capacity, and ruinous overcapacities. The latest titanium shortage started in the last month of 1978 and ended in the first months of 1981. It was caused by unexpected demand followed by hedge buying. No shortage appears likely through the mid-1980s. The U.S. titanium industry excels in melting, alloying, mill processing, and heat treating. Its mill product quality is unsurpassed. Its titanium sponge pioneer production plants, however, are tending towards obsolescence. Their modernization would be desirable. Advanced-technology, greenfield, titanium-sponge plants are being built in the United States. Although proportionately small in terms of total U.S. sponge manufacturing capacity, these plants are an encouraging sign. Well-established government incentives that have been successful in encouraging the building of greenfield plants in other industries would be desirable to help modernize aging U.S. titanium sponge plants. Government research and development assistance to aid in the full and timely exploitation of titanium's major technologic opportunities also is desirable. Conclusions The main conclus ions o f the panel are: The U.S. titanium industry had the last opportunity to commercialize a new tonnage structural metal. The opportunity arose from the coincidence in 1948 of the following occurrences: successful completion of a decade's piloting of the Kroll titanium sponge process by the U.S. Bureau of Mines, the advent of the jet engine, and the "heating up" of the Cold War. With massive government support, the U. S. industry quickly became the world leader in titanium sponge production, melting, alloying, mill processing, and heat treating. It retains that lead in all respects except for the production of sponge. The Soviets and Japanese have more modern, and probably lower cost, plants producing higher quality sponge. Moreover, the Soviet Union has considerably higher sponge capacity than the United States. 1
2 2. The obsolescence of the U. S. titanium sponge pioneer plants does not at feet the quality of mill products made from their sponge . U. S . titanium mill products are at least the equal of any produced elsewhere . ~ Broader implications of U.S . sponge plant obsolescence are out lined in the Foreword and Chapter 2 ~ . 3. 5. Several U.S. entrepreneurs are piloting, or building, production plants with the most advanced Kroll and electrowinning processes. With appropriate government support, U.S. sponge facilities also can become at least as ef f icient and productive as any in the world . There are no crippling titanium ore problems. The great majority (93 percent) of TiO2 ore is used in the United States for pigment; only the remaining 7 percent is used f or metal . There are large TiO2 ore reserves both in the United States and abroad. Although available domestically, about 55 percent of U. S . titanium ore consumption is imported; for economic reasons. Hence, ore for U.S . titanium metal is triply secure: large domestic reserves are being conserved by the use of import s, only 7 percent of U. S . total consumption is for metal, and stocks for pigment manufacture could provide an emergency supply of ore for metal. The ma jor variables in titanium sponge manufacture are: the choice of reductant, either magnesium or sodium, and the choice of where to vacuum distill off the last, but degrading, traces of by-product chloride--either by the 1950s method of acid leaching followed by vacuum melting (distillation occurs incidentally during vacuum melting) or by separate vacuum distillation of sponge . For Krol 1 process greenf ield plants, the latter choice generally is thought to be the better method. 6. Titanium's growth appears to be following the familiar "S" growth curve of aluminum and magnesium but the curve is steeper in keeping with the ever-increasing tempo of the times. The key question now is at what tonnage level titanium's growth curve will start to plateau. The sharp ups and downs characteristic of a structural metal's initial decades begin to smooth as diverse industrial uses start to dominate its market. Accordingly, the principal hope f or a smoother titanium supply-demand relationship has greatly increased industrial use. Now comprising one-fourth of the total U.S. titanium mill product market, industrial applications might rise beyond half the total within the next several decades if present trends continue and if one or more very large industrial possibilities, now just on the horizon, are fully realized. Examples are pipe for deep-hole, sour-gas wells, accelerated applications in the chemical process industry, and more remotely, heat exchangers for the ocean thermal energy conversion (see Chapter 10~. A major reason for the obsolescence of the U.S. titanium sponge pioneer plants was the repeated sharp swings in mill product consumption (see Figure 1~. Repeatedly, U.S. titanium sponge
3 manufacturers misperceived prospects of new military aircraft for actual demand; they installed new capacity to meet great expected demand only to f ind the plans sharply reduced or completely cancelled. The result has been chronic overcapacity, that has led to product prices too low to provide sufficient profits to justify new investment needed to increase capacity, quality, and productivity. 8. The 1979-1980 shortage was due largely to hedge buying by commercial aircraf t manufacturers responding to the upward spurt in commercial aero space activity. 9. As in other periods of sponge shortage, U.S. titanium sponge manufacturers added incrementally to existing plants, and the Japanese increased their sponge capacity 53 percent in 1980. This increased capacity, plus the coincidental f all in the U. S . economy and the downturn in the commercial aerospace boom, restored moderate excess titanium sponge and mill processing capacities. It now appears that sponge and f orging capabilities will be adequate t o prevent large shortages into at least the mid-1980s. 10. Greenfield titanium sponge plants may require three to five years for completion, and adequate U.S. titanium sponge capability after the mid-1980s requires immediate planning. In view of repeated past demonstrations of the lack of reliance that investors can place on the tentative plans of military and aerospace needs, some government guarantees will be required to justify investment in greenfield titanium sponge plants. The examples of International Ti tanium, Inc., D-H Titanium, and Albany Titanium, however, suggest that perhaps this may not be necessary. 11. Experience going back at least to the Korean War shows that guaranteed purchase of product for a strategic stockpile is an effective way for the government to encourage the building of plants in the national interest when private investment is not justified. (An economic stockpile is, in contrast to a strategic one, a disincentive. ~ Floor price contracts are particularly effective. Other proven incentives are accelerated tax amortization and added tax credits for research and development. 12. The titanium industry piloted and developed vacuum arc remelting into a relatively complex and generally quite satisfactory industrial art. However, ingots larger than the 20,000-lb size currently produced and rectangular-section ingots for slab rolling are desirable in the near future. 13. Several thousand titanium alloys have been research melted and tested over the past 30 years. From these, approximately 100 alloy compositions were commercialized. In turn, only about 10 of these are now commonly in use in the United States (see Chapter 7~. In general, these 10 offer the most needed combinations of properties,
4 and even today, refinements on them are being developed. However, no breakthroughs are foreseen in the traditional alpha, beta, and alpha-beta titanium alloys, even though 30 years of titanium alloy development seems to short a period to have exhausted all alloying potentialities. Research and development activity in titanium alloys has been intensive and has benefited from the previous century's extensive new knowledge and ins trumentation in iron, nickel, copper, aluminum and magnesium. Accordingly, the only important titanium alloy advances foreseen by the panel are in the somewhat exotic fields of the aluminides (see Chapter 7 ~ and of rapid solidif ication technology (RST) products (see Chapter 11~. 14. lIigh-temperature and high-flow stresses typify the working of titanium and titanium alloy ingots into mill products. Refinements to ensure optimum microstructures have been established in pilot production. 15. A detailed study of the titanium production cycle identified bottlenecks impeding optimum production at each operation (see Chapter 8~. Among the more important are: the small-size reaction pots and the inefficient means of removing sponge from the reaction pots; the tailor-made construction of consumable electrodes for melting and the necessity for triple melting of some ingots; the custom-job-shop character of titanium production with high costs and inefficiencies associated with its batch-type operation; the necessity for extensive ingot and bloom conditioning before and after primary fabrication; and the inadequacies of metal heating and handling equipment and procedures. 16. Titanium has three major application fields: military aerospace, commerc ial aerospace, and industrial (see Figure 1 and Chapter 9~. Military jets were the major factor in starting the titanium industry, but commercial jets have grown increasingly important as have a number of industrial uses. 17 . The U. S . titanium industry is at an early growing stage in its development; most of its present ma jar applications appear f irm, and prospects seem good that large new applications will develop. No one can know the future of a commodity, especially two decades ahead. Titanium mill product consumption has more than doubled during the past decade. Projecting a 7 percent growth rate from a 1980 base of 27,000 tons of mill products, U.S. consumption by 2000 is estimated to be about 100, 000 tons of mill products. That may appear optimistic to many, but the extrapolation has a seemingly reasonable basis. However, a minority of the panel members do not share this optimism. 18. Processing as-won metal to the finished end item with the least cost, energy, work, and cross-sectional deformation has been termed near-net-shape processing and is possibly one of the largest technologic opportunities in the titanium processing f ield. The Air
5 Force and Navy have sponsored important advances in this f ield with complex-shape end items (see Chapter 11) . Precision casting, precision powder molding, and superplastic forming and diffusion bonding are established, notably successful examples of near-net-shape processing. Titanium tonnage, powder metallurgy (TPM) aims to apply near-net-shape goals to the processing of mill products. Although there is no precedent for TPM in the tonnage structural metal field, the possibility for titanium merits examination (see Chapter 11~. 19. Reliable and continuously updated estimates of projected military requirements for titanium, to the extent that military security permits, would be very valuable for the industry. Even if the material requirements of all weapons systems were consolidated to preserve military security, the totals would be very useful to all concerned . Recommendations Based on personal observations of the panel members and their conclusions on the status of the United States titanium industry, the following recommendations are offered for consideration by appropriate government agencies: 2. 4. 1. If the government concludes that the United States requires more greenfield titanium sponge production capacity than the private sector is able to finance itself, cognizant government agencies should use procurement for the U.S. National Stockpile to encourage the pioneer titanium sponge producers to modernize their present plants and to encourage them and others to build more ef f icient greenfie~d plants (e.g., by multiyear, floor-price contracts). The U.S. National Stockpile should remain strategic as was intended by the law that created it. Ad hoc panels should be sponsored to develop and document recommendations concerning the size, quality, alloy content (if any), and forms (e.g., ingot and, possibly, certain mill products) of titanium for the U.S. National Stockpile. All incentive stockpile purchases should conform strictly to these specifications, and all stockpile sponge not meeting the new specifications should be replaced. Additional incentives to encourage advanced-technology greenfield plants (e.g. accelerated tax amortization and additional tax credits) for research and development should be considered by appropriate government agencies. Stepped-up government support f or near-net-shape technology should be provided for small (a few tens of pounds maximum), complex shapes, expanding the current excellent programs of the Air Force and Navy.
6 Large quantities (up to many tons) of simple-shape mill products, such as strip and extrusions, produced by direct powder processing appear to have important economic potential . Thi s conclusion i s based on just released and hitherto trade conf idential inf ormation (see Appendix K). An appropriate government agency, (e.g., the U. S. Bureau of Mines or the Manufacturing Technology branch of the Air Force Materials Laboratory) should sponsor a detal led calculation comparison of all the resources (including energy, materials, time, in-process inventories, yields, labor, and capital) required under optimum conditions to produce typical mill products such as alloy strip, bar, tubing, extrusions, and forgings by the present custom-job shop process versus all the resources required by tonnage powder metallurgy. If the TPM shows important savings at reasonable assumed powder costs (e.g., double or triple the cost of sponge), research and development of low-cost, high-purity titanium powder should be considered. If this effort is succesful, programs for titanium TPM for strip and extrusions should be considered. Bottlenecks to the efficient operation of the U.S. titanium industry are evident in each of its winning, (conversion and sponge production processes), and manufacturing steps (see Chapter 8~. Increased research and development and Technology Modernization Program (see Appendix I) support should be given by appropriate government agencies to widen the ef f art to minimize or eliminate these bott lenecks. 8. The Department of Defense should make available to the materials community continuously updated, aggregate totals of it s mill produc t requirements. If these needs are known in advance, critical shortages can be anticipated and can be corrected or minimized. 9. Research and development should be sponsored to elucidate the me chanisms whereby rare earth additions to titanium greatly improve hot workability and yields from titanium alloy ingots and then to develop process controls that will make their production use feasible. 10. Research and development should be sponsored to explore and fully exploit the potential of rapidly solidif fed titanium alloys.