Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X
Titanium is an exciting structural material that can offer significant strength-to-weight advantages over currently used alloys. However, its Achilles' heel is its costly, energy-intensive production process that effectively eliminates it from competing with aluminium and high-strength steels, apart from critical applications where titanium forms only a small component of the total cost. Current attempts are being made to reduce the cost of titanium products and these recognize the importance of minimizing the costs over the total production chain. Powder metallurgy (PM) technologies play a crucial role within this, as the output of the existing and potential primary metal production methods is in the form of sponge or powder. By using PM, costly remelting and forming operations can then be avoided, except in the manufacture of large components. Metal injection moulding (MIM) is an effective process for producing complex net-shape components in large volumes from metal powders. Nevertheless, the commercial use of titanium powders in this process is still in its infancy. The only major supplier of feedstock utilizes a polyacetal-based binder. This gives good green strength but requires a catalytic nitric acid process to remove most of the binder prior to thermal treatment. As this involves additional and expensive equipment and is a potentially hazardous process, there is interest in finding an alternative binder system that can be debound either purely thermally or that involves a less hazardous, more environmentally friendly solvent. This paper describes the use of capillary rheometry to characterize the influence of temperature and shear rates on the flow behaviour of potential binder systems for titanium MIM feedstock.
Keywords : Titanium; metal injection moulding; capillary rheology; feedstocks; powder loading.