With its low mass, high strength, and a virtual immunity to automotive environment corrosion, titanium solves many automotive engineering challenges. With this is mind, Titanium Metals Corp. (Timet), Denver, has formed a division to serve the automotive industry and its growing requirements for titanium. The objective of the new division, Timet Automotive, Morgantown, Pa., is to optimize the titanium production processes, controls, quality procedures, and supply channels to meet the needs of automotive manufacturers.
The auto industry is forecasted to globally consume 1,100 metric tons of titanium in 2002. This number is small compared to other automotive metals, but it represents a substantial growth over the 100 metric tons used by OEMs in 1995.
In street-vehicle applications, titanium is used for engine valves, connecting rods, wheel-rim screws, exhaust systems, and suspension springs. Titanium engine components increase horsepower and torque while improving fuel economy and solving problems with noise and vibration. When used in exhaust systems, titanium reduces material weight approximately 50% compared to traditional systems and substantially increases product life. Titanium suspension springs give OEMs greater mass reduction, up to 70%, over conventional springs performing the same function in less space, allowing increased payload and engine or passenger compartment space.
J. Landis Martin, chairman of the board, president, and CEO of Timet says, "The need to meet the conflicting goals of higher mileage, lower emissions, and improved safety has caused automobile manufacturers to increase their application of lightweight materials. Titanium provides performance characteristics in the automotive environment that are unmatched by other metals."
While the material once had a reputation for being expensive, advances in production technology and increased consumption in industrial markets have allowed steep cost reductions. The average price of titanium, adjusted for inflation, is less than 50% of what it was in 1981.
Kurt Faller, president of Timet Automotive says, "The reality is that titanium for automotive applications is a lot less expensive than is commonly thought. Particularly when you look at the life cycle of the material."
Timet has proprietary titanium alloys created specifically for the automotive market.