Titanium Centre of Competence
Over the past decade, there has been a growing realisation in South Africa that the country has an industrial opportunity to add more value to its vast resources of titanium-bearing minerals. Cost-effective methods for producing titanium metal and its alloys followed by their conversion into net and near-net products, offer the potential of a vibrant new South African industry sector.
As the vehicle to establish the technology building blocks of such an industry, the DST formed the Titanium Centre of Competence and contracted the CSIR to manage this national network of research institutions, universities and private companies. This is illustrated in the TiCoC diagram.
Read more about the TiCoC here:
From mineral to titanium metal powder: piloting a titanium metal production process
To date, no organisation in the world has been able to produce titanium powder directly in a continuous manner on a commercial scale from titanium tetrachloride (TiCl4 – the usual precursor used for titanium metal production). The CSIR is developing a process that can do just this, and is currently building a pilot plant to scale the technology up.
The national benefits that would arise from a world-scale, low-cost titanium metal plant are considerable.
Titanium powder to metal product: Powder metallurgy a cost-effective technology crucial for establishing a titanium industry Powder metallurgy techniques are cost-effective and offer a huge advantage in material savings. Using these methods the low-cost locally produced titanium, its alloys and composites can be converted into finished and semi-finished products.
Building SA’s future one layer at a time with laser additive manufacturing
The CSIR, Aerosud and the Central- and Vaal Universities of Technology are developing a suite of unique laser additive manufacturing systems and processes that will place South Africa at the forefront of this technology, with tremendous benefits to the local manufacturing industry. The success thereof will see the creation of a knowledge base and capacity that will enable South Africa to generate sustainable wealth and future opportunities in additive manufacturing.
Casting titanium: a new opportunity for South African foundries
With investment casting, it is possible to cast parts with intricate shapes and thin walls into a near-net shape, meaning that the parts will only need limited machining after the casting process. The CSIR and ALD have developed and is qualifying a process to produce titanium castings using an investment casting process , while ensuring that it is both cost-effective and commercially viable.
Strong new hybrid materials for aircraft
In its quest to support the aerospace manufacturing industry, the CSIR is looking at different materials that will work best for aircraft. Using alternating layers of carbon fibre and titanium, a strong yet lightweight hybrid material emerges that combines the advantages of both metals and composite materials.
The test: is it strong enough to meet world class standards?
Products produced with locally-developed titanium and processes need to be of a world-class standard, especially if it is to be used in the biomedical or aerospace industries. To test material properties a mechanical testing laboratory has been established at the CSIR. Here, anything from tensile tests to fracture mechanics takes place.