Titanium Production - The story of where your gear came from?

Titanium a wonder material that has revolutionised so many industries from aerospace to the medical industry. Used for its incredible strength and lightness its popularity amongst industries has only grown. First founded in Cornwall England in 1791 and named after the Titans in Greek Mythology, I believe it is a most suitable name.

Below are a range of facts and information, I learnt during the writing of this blog post, before moving onto the actual process of explaining from Ore to your SilverAnt gear.

  • Extreme corrosion resistance
  • Biocompatible and non toxic
  • Highest strength to density ration of any metallic element
  • Low electrical and thermal conductivity
  • 9th most abundant resource in the Earths Crust
  • Estimated total reserves of 600 million tonnes (scary)
  • Titanium is found in meteorites (super cool)
  • Titanium compounds have been used in cancer treatment, because of its low toxicity
  • Largest Titanium company is Russian called VSMPO-AVISMA
  • Titanium is 15 x more expensive than aluminium

From Ore to your water bottle

As a company and more importantly an individual, I find it to be increasingly important to understand and know where our products, food and clothes are made. From the polyester in my t-shirt to the food on my table, a basic understanding of these processes is crucial. So for those of you that want are interested in the stories of your ultralight gear below is an abbreviated form of the process.

Titaniums ultimately a mined ore and that comes from mineral sand deposits. Worldwide, the largest reserves are found in China, with over 21 provinces in China mining titanium ore, with the largest producer significantly being Sichuan province in western China next to Tibet. China’s production capabilities were as of 2017 twice the size of Russia. In 2013 China produced over 100,000 tonnes of titanium comparable to Russia’s 45,000 tonnes!

 

The first part of the process is to take the sand/ titanium ore alongside with water and refine like gold panning in a wet mill, where the heavier black particles are separated. Now this is a terraforming act on an environment as with all mining activities, and does have consequences on the environment.

Upon separation through a process similar to gold panning, the ore is further purified at a dry mill by an electrostatic separator removing other trace metals. Once the ore is removed from other trace metals it is then needed to undergo an expensive refining process known as the Kroll process, which presently much is being done to reduce the cost of this process, and to greater increase efficiency, as from ore to titanium sheet the process can take up to 6 months.

Next the titanium ore (very much like back sand) is firstly heated to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit and then chlorine gas is added. The outcome as known to scientists is called Ti Cl4 (tickle). As it cools the tetrachloride is collected as a liquid.

To separate the titanium and the chlorine is the most expensive process in refining. To do this a further metal is introduced magnesium. They heat the titanium tetrachloride and magnesium to 1500-1600 degrees for 4 days, where the chlorine is removed leaving the titanium and magnesium. You then lastly want to remove the magnesium, the 1500 degree plus behemoth of amber red ore is placed in a vacuum to cool which removes any magnesium chloride. What’s left is pure titanium otherwise known as titanium sponge, which is porous with lots of holes and anything from the conventional appearance we associate with titanium.

The titanium sponge then undergoes the process of crushing into granules which are then sent to the lab to undergo chemical and computer analysis to ensure purity. If the batch is pure the titanium granules are subjected to over 7000 tonnes of pressure to form compact blocks which are then in turn melted down in a vacuum to form ingots.

These massive blocks are then placed in a furnace to 2134 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which titanium becomes malleable. Using high tech robotics the glowing amber titanium is then placed in a huge press using thousands of tonnes of force and intense pressure to form sheets. After finally one last blast in the furnace  the sheets are cut and polished to form what we would associate with conventional titanium.

It is then after this laborious process that we purchase whole sheets of grade 1 and 2 titanium and take back to our factory to begin the manufacturing process. With our manufacturing process we use computer aided design and manufacture to create our gear which removes any human error and ensures the titaniums integrity and longevity.

What a remarkable journey from an ore found in sand, undergoing intense heat and pressure to forming sheets of titanium which are then cut and shaped to form your water bottle, from which you drink daily from and carry with you everywhere. I hope you liked this post please feel free to leave a comment or message on social media and I can personally answer any questions.

 

Shaun

References

I found this video to be great on showing a detailed process for explaining titanium manufacture as well as wikipedia for some facts and also world atlas for country production.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsdRo5jvnXo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanium

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-titanium-producing-countries.html