Success Story

Ames Laboratory-developed Titanium Powder Processing gains International Customer Base

A titanium bolt and the corresponding amount of titanium powder necessary to create it.

Titanium powder created with Ames Laboratory-developed gas-atomization technology is being successfully marketed by Praxair Inc., which offers fine, spherical titanium powder for additive manufacturing and metal injection molding of aerospace, medical and industrial parts. It marks the first time large-scale amounts of titanium powder are available to industry with a potential for low-cost, high-volume manufacturing.

Titanium’s strength, light weight, biocompatibility and resistance to corrosion make it ideal for use in parts ranging from aircraft wing structures to replacement knee joints and medical instruments. Using ultra-fine, high-purity spherical titanium powder to 3-D print or mold these parts generates 10 times less metal waste than traditional casting of parts.

Two former Ames Laboratory employees Joel Rieken and Andy Heidloff, created a spinoff company, Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies (IPAT), to exclusively license Ames Laboratory’s titanium atomization patents. IPAT scientists worked to further optimize the titanium atomization process and along the way won several business and technology awards for their efforts, including the Department of Energy’s Next Top Energy Innovator competition in 2012. IPAT was acquired by Praxair, a Fortune 250 company and one of the world’s largest producers of gases and surface coatings in 2014, and Praxair began marketing titanium powder the following year.

In 2017, the high-efficiency “pour tube” nozzle invented by Iver Anderson, Reiken, Heidloff and their team to produce titanium power by a method 10 times more efficient than traditional powder-making methods, received a Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Excellence in Technology Transfer Award. 

Gas atomization work at Ames Laboratory was supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Office of Fossil Energy, and the specific work on titanium powder was supported by Iowa State University’s Research Foundation, the State of Iowa Regents Innovation Fund, and the U.S. Army.