National Academies Press: OpenBook

Titanium: Past, Present, and Future (1983)

Chapter: Chapter 2: Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2: Introduction." National Research Council. 1983. Titanium: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1712.
Page 7
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2: Introduction." National Research Council. 1983. Titanium: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1712.
Page 8
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2: Introduction." National Research Council. 1983. Titanium: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1712.
Page 9
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 2: Introduction." National Research Council. 1983. Titanium: Past, Present, and Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1712.
Page 10

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Chapter 2 INTRODUCTION Industrial titanium was born of an advanced technology in 1948--high-purity titanium tetrachloride reduction under argon, vacuum arc remelting, control of embrittling hydrogen, plus the first titanium alloys--and produced at high tonnages as a specialty metal. Of even greater importance to the growth of the titanium industry were important national policy decisions concerning: o Whether to build large armadas of high-titanium-content jet fighters, bombers, and air-breathing missiles or low-titanium ICBMs. Whether to build high-titanium B-57, B-58, XB-70, and B-1 bombers or to refurbish low-titanium B-52Hs. o Whether to develop high-titanium ABMs or to strive for arms limitation agreement s . Whether to build high-titanium or lo~titanium SSTs or to stay with economical subsonic aircraft. It is a measure of the titanium industry's severe growing pains--and of the survival strengths of its pioneers, TIME: T and RMI--that each of the foregoing national policy questions was answered unfavorably for titanium and was followed by a consequent drastic drop in the demand for titanium mill products (see Figure 1~. Such industrial giants as Crane, Dow, Du Font, and Union Carbide consequently decided to leave the titanium business. After repeatedly expanding to meet perceived demands only to be confronted by suddenly cancelled programs, the surviving managements, TIMET and RMI, had few funds for research and development and plant modernization in the 1970s. Much more vulnerable and narrowly based than the better-established steel and auto industries, the U.S. titanium industry several times barely survived and, like steel and autos, the bulk of the industry appears to have fallen technologically behind the Japanese and also the Soviets in sponge production. An odd, if temporary, standoff has resulted. The outmoded U.S. titanium sponge production plants built in the 1950s and 1960s today would appear to be more costly to operate than the advanced foreign plants except that they are fully depreciated and so apparently can compete. However, when new, U.S. greenfield sponge-winning plants are required (probably within a few years at most), all critical 7

8 150 - 125: 100 75 50 _ 25 _ ~ c E ~ NOTE: Half Scale O . COMM ER Cl A L AE ROSPAC E _ 25 D ~D O X - I ~7 C~ ~25 o c~ z ~. tn ~ 0 ~_~= "' ~E ' ·' tt, ~ ' ~, , ~. 0 [D ~ O ~ .~., ('g m e ~,, ~r v': _ ~uai - - . . u, - (~, ~ - cI' . co - I l ~D LL r~ r~ . .~ ~r~ - c ~ o - - . - . ~ - LL.J o LL Q C, .' .' - 1 1 1, 1 Actual -_ /~ ~~~f~Forecastl IVII L5TARY ~ AEROSPACE | I r I ~ ~ Forecast /lil,;f ,l)1t | / ~ ~ ~ Actual tJ, l I N DUSTR ~ A L 25- O- i 1 940 1 950 1 960 1 970 1 24 6;/ YEAR 1980 t 990 2000 Figure 1 Ups and downs of the U. S. titani~ industry.

9 criteria--cost, quality, energy, and environmental--will mandate new metal-winning technology. In the mid-1960s, OREMET started this modernization trend with an innovative technology for sponge production. Batch size was increased seven times over the prior 2000-lbs limit and the magnesium-reduced batch incorporated a helium sweep purif ication step. Du Pont's pioneering Kroll process production throughout the 1948-1962 period was vacuum distilled. Teledyne Wah Chang Albany produced the next vacuum distilled, Kroll-process titanium sponge in 1981. Other advances in the industry involve TIMET's and D-H Titanium's production of pilot quantities of electrolytic titanium; International Titanium Incorporated broke ground in 1981 for a U.S. Kroll plant featuring the latest Japanese technology, including vacuum distillation, and Albany Titanium is reported to be building a similar but smaller plant . Meanwhile, the Japanese are depreciating rapidly their advanced technology plants and are moving aggressively forward into the production of mill products and finished articles (e.g., complete chemical vessel and heat exchangers). Foreign competition for titanium sponge, mill products, and finished components undoubtedly will become fierce worldwide, including in the U.S. home market. Titanium is essential t o the U.S. aerospace industry and it also makes unique contributions to the chemical processing industry and in related industrial fields. Many, therefore, consider it to be in the best interest of the United States for there to be a healthy, vigorous, domestic titanium industry plus a strategic stockpile large enough to meet the nation's emergency wartime titanium needs. From 1979 to 1980, the United States suffered an apparent shortage of titanium sponge and mill products; spot prices for titanium sponge escalated manifold to $30 per pound, and forging deliveries in extreme cases, were quoted at three years. During this period, the U.S. National Defense Stockpile for titanium contained only 32,331 tons of sponge, one third of which (10,866 tons) did not meet current specifications. As an indication of the shortfall from established U.S. needs which these 21 , 465 tons of on-specif ication titanium sponge represent, the newly established titanium sponge stockpile goal of 195,000 tons is almost 10 times the stock on hand and six times the U.S. industry's current capacity . Faced with this large national stockpile shortfall and the alarming shortages of 1979-1980, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government bodies with responsibilities in the materials area, sponsored this NMAB panel study of the current status of the industry. To understand the panel's interpretation and execution of its charge from the sponsor and the necessarily circumscribed scope of this report, the reader is encouraged to review the Foreword before proceeding with the rest of this report.


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