Can Titanium be CNC Machined? CNC Machining Titanium

Mosi Li
Mosi Li

Director Project Engineer at 3Q Machining - China top CNC Machining Custom Part Manufacturer

Can Titanium Be CNC Machined?

Can Titanium Be CNC Machined?

Titanium alloy refers to a variety of alloy metals made of titanium and other metals. Titanium is an important metal developed in the 1950s, it has high strength, good corrosion resistance and high heat resistance. 

A number of corrosion-resistant titanium alloys were developed in the 1970s. Since the 1980s, corrosion-resistant titanium alloys and high-strength titanium alloys have been developed. Titanium alloy can be CNC machined same as stainless steel and it is mainly used to make aircraft engine compressor parts, rockets, missiles and high-speed rail structural parts.

Because of its excellent properties, titanium alloy will inevitably replace steel as the most important metal material in the future. In real life, titanium alloy products are still particularly expensive.

What caused the problem?

Titanium alloy raw materials are expensive, but it is still acceptable.

The main reason is that the machining processing of Titanium is high cost. This is caused by the properties of titanium which is high strength and high toughness make it difficult to be machined, and the production efficiency is very low. The current level of machining technology level to machine titanium would be very high costs. If you expect to use it cheaply and widely used, that must improve the efficiency and speed of titanium alloy production and processing step by step.

Is titanium metal expensive?

Why Apple doesn’t apply the lighter and stronger titanium alloy for iPhone?

Apple had a Titanium Power Book G4 made of titanium alloy in 2001, but later there was no product made of titanium alloy. Is it possible for Apple to apply this high-quality (although difficult to process and costly) material to the iPhone in the future?

The titanium metal is expensive that Apple is not willing to pay so much high cost on its phone product but only very slight visible difference. 

 

The average price of aluminum alloy 6061 is 16,000 yuan/ton, the price of 1mm x 1M x 2M titanium alloy sheet is 13,000 yuan, which is about 9.02 kilograms in terms of mass, which is
Said that the price of titanium alloy is about 1.44 million yuan per ton. That is to say, the cost of raw materials  cost of titanium is 48 times to aluminum alloy to manufacture a mobile phone case without calculating the processing cost.

The cost of raw materials in the market also brings more negative marginal effects. For manufacturers, the cost of scrapped faulty parts is higher, and the current capital tied up by the raw materials is higher.


There is also more money, and there may even be a situation where it cannot afford to pay huge raw material costs (of course, Apple can pay for its own materials to supply suppliers, and they
are not lack of money).

Apple does not need to invest such a high cost to obtain a user experience that is actually not very different. Such a slight change will not let many customers pay for so much expensive price to buy it.

I believe that even if it is made of a titanium alloy version, Apple can still be able to control the phone price below 1,000 US dollars, but in this case, Apple would make much less profit, because more profits go to titanium alloy manufacturing companies.

How difficult is it to machine titanium?

How difficult is it to machine titanium?

The cutting force during titanium alloy processing is only slightly higher than that of steel of the same hardness, but processing titanium alloy is more complicated and difficult than processing steel which means  stainless steel is much easier to machine than titanium.

01. Cutting tools easy to wear

The thermal conductivity of titanium alloy is very low, only 1/7 that of steel and 1/16 that of aluminum. Therefore, the heat generated in the process of CNC machining titanium alloy will not be quickly transferred to the workpiece or taken away by the chips, so as to accumulate in the cutting area. The temperature generated can be as high as 1,000 ℃ or more, causing the cutting edge of the tool to wear quickly. The cutting tool generates more heat in the cutting area, further shortening the life of the tool. The high temperature generated during the cutting process also destroys the surface integrity of the titanium alloy parts, resulting in a decrease in the accuracy of the parts.  

02. Titanium alloy easy to have vibration

Many parts and products require the excellent elasticity of titanium alloy, but in the CNC cutting process, the elastic deformation of the workpiece is the main cause of vibration. The cutting pressure causes the “elastic” workpiece to leave the tool and rebound, so that the friction between the tool and the workpiece is greater than the cutting action. The friction process also generates heat, which aggravates the problem of poor thermal conductivity of titanium alloys.  

03. More difficult to machine thin-wall and ring-shaped parts

This problem becomes more serious when processing thin-walled or ring-shaped parts that are easily deformed. It is not an easy task to process thin-walled titanium alloy parts to precise dimensions. Because when the workpiece material is pushed away by the tool, the local deformation of the thin wall has exceeded the elastic range and deformed, and the material strength and hardness of the cutting point increase significantly. At this time, machining according to the originally determined cutting speed becomes too high, which will further cause tool wear.  


“Heat” is the “biggest difficulty” in titanium alloy cnc machining processing!

Tips for CNC machining titanium: A Guide to Machining Titanium and Its Alloys

Tips for CNC machining titanium: A Guide to Machining Titanium and Its Alloys

On the basis of understanding the processing mechanism of titanium alloys and combining our previous experience, the main process know-how of CNC machining titanium alloys is as follows:


(1) Use positive-angle geometry inserts to reduce cutting force, cutting heat and workpiece deformation.


(2) Maintain a constant feed to avoid hardening of the workpiece. The tool must always be in the feed state during the cutting process, and the radial tool engagement ae during milling should be 30% of the radius.


(3) Use high-pressure and large-flow cutting fluid to ensure the thermal stability of the machining process and prevent damage to the surface of the workpiece and the tool due to excessive temperature.


(4) Keep the cutting edge of the blade sharp. Blunt tools are the cause of heat build-up and wear, which can easily lead to tool failure.


(5) Process the titanium alloy before heat treatment, because the material becomes more difficult to process after hardening. The heat treatment increases the strength of the material and increases the wear of the blade.


(6) Use a large arc radius or chamfer to cut in, and put as many cutting edges as possible into the cutting. This can reduce the cutting force and heat at every point and prevent local damage. When milling titanium alloys, among the cutting parameters, the cutting speed has the greatest influence on the tool life vc, followed by the radial tool engagement (milling depth) ae.

Start with the tool to solve the problem of titanium processing.   

The blade groove wear that occurs during titanium alloy processing is the local wear along the cutting depth direction of the back and the front, and it is often caused by the hardened layer left by the previous processing. The chemical reaction and diffusion of the tool and the workpiece material at a processing temperature of more than 800°C are also one of the reasons for the formation of groove wear. Because during the machining process, the titanium molecules of the workpiece accumulate in the front area of the blade and are “welded” to the blade under high pressure and high temperature, forming a built-up edge. When the built-up edge is peeled from the cutting edge, it will take away the carbide coating of the tool. Therefore, titanium alloy processing requires special tool materials and geometric shapes.

Titanium CNC service

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