Titanium and copper powder with 3D printed bars. (Credit: RMIT)

Successful trials of titanium-copper alloys for 3D printing could kickstart a new range of high-performance alloys for medical device and other applications.

Current titanium alloys used in additive manufacturing often cool and bond together in column-shaped crystals during the 3D printing process, making them prone to cracking or distortion. And unlike aluminum or other commonly used metals, there is no commercial grain refiner for titanium that manufacturers can use to effectively refine the microstructure to avoid these issues. But now a new titanium alloy with copper appears to have solved this problem.

The titanium–copper alloy printed with “exceptional properties” without any special process control or additional treatment. Of particular note, the researchers say, was its fully equiaxed grain structure: this means the crystal grains had grown equally in all directions to form a strong bond, instead of in columns, which can lead to weak points liable to cracking.