How to Machine Titanium

Tips for machining titanium

Machinists and CNC operators know working with Titanium can be tricky. The good news is Titanium is a highly-workable material in most alloy blends. The not-so-good news is mistakes can occur easily and are not only annoying, they can be extremely expensive. Knowing how to machine Titanium is as much an art form as it is science or engineering. Depending upon the alloy mix and workpiece specification, machining Titanium takes attention to details and characteristics not found in other materials,.

Characteristics of titanium

Like all fabrication or machine-made base materials, Titanium has some unique characteristics that require attention to issues related to tool clearing and speed. With 40 different grades of Titanium as well as several alloys, it’s no wonder industries in aerospace, military, medicine, and others utilize Titanium in a wide variety of applications. Softer than steel and resistant to rust, Titanium significantly reduces weight while retaining structural strength making it ideal for use in aircraft, automobiles, and other weight-conscious applications. Due to its inherent flexibility and strength, there are considerations for tool performance that should be observed during CNC or machine operations. Failure to do so can result in workpiece damage and excessive tool consumption.

    Tips and techniques for machining titanium

    Studying the best methods for handling, tooling, and cutting Titanium will contribute toward achieving better quality machining results. The goal is to produce workpieces to exacting specifications and with Titanium, there are some easily-overlooked techniques and experience-based tips that can save a lot of frustration, damage, time, and money. Here’s a quick roundup of some steps that can reduce downtime and enhance productivity:

        • Get a Grip – Due to the flexible nature of Titanium, it’s critical to have workpieces held firmly in place while cutting and machining.
        • Don’t Interrupt – Stopping a cutting tool in the production cycle can cause heat build-up resulting in an unwanted ridge or edge on the workpiece.
        • Move Along – Titanium provides a smoother, more consistent surface when cutting tools move at slower speeds making deeper cuts.
        • Don’t Melt Down – Heat build-up can occur when feed rates are too high resulting in workpiece deformation and rapid tool degradation.
        • Keep It Clean – High-pressure coolant removes chips and will prevent galling and waste material build-up on cutting edges.

    Understanding titanium

    Just like every other workpiece formed by a CNC machine or mill, a Titanium piece will have to be handled with an eye on reducing heat whenever possible. Workpiece damage due to heat from excessive tool speed, chip build-up, and tool stoppage causes the most concern. With proper tool choice, speed, and coolant, most problems can be avoided.

    Machinists recommend using Aluminum Titanium Nitride (AlTiN) coating for end mills and tools when working on Titanium for extended tool life and improved cutting characteristics. Time spent researching, training, and reviewing CNC manufacturer’s recommendations and best methods for machining Titanium can be accomplished quickly and will contribute toward reducing errors. Despite its higher value and greater need for precision machining, Titanium is becoming more and more popular throughout manufacturing. 

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