Success Story

Creating Efficiency in Titanium Parts Production

Titanium’s strength, light weight, biocompatibility and resistance to corrosion make it ideal for use in a variety of parts — from components for artificial limbs like those used by wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to military vehicle components, biomedical implants, and aerospace fasteners. But, working with titanium can be difficult when casting parts because molten titanium tends to react with the materials used for machine molds. Using a gas atomization process (which makes a fine, spherical powder form of titanium) manufacturers can then press the powder together at high temperatures. The process is ten times more efficient than traditional powder-making methods thereby significantly lowering the cost of the powder to manufacturers. Utilizing titanium powder has the benefits of conserving processing time and energy, and it produces less waste material.

To make titanium powder, titanium metal is melted using a standard commercial process, then it is heated and precisely guided by an Ames Laboratory-patented pour tube into a high- intensity atomization nozzle, also patented at Ames Laboratory. The metal is then sprayed out in a fine droplet mist. Each droplet quickly cools and solidifies, creating a collection of many tiny spheres, forming fine titanium powder. Inventors of the nozzle or pour tube are Iver Anderson, Robert Terstra, Matt Besser, Daniel Sordelet, Joel Rieken of Ames Laboratory and Alan Hartman, Edward Argetsinger, Jeffrey Hansen, Jake Paige, Paul Turner of the Albany Research Center

The Laboratory’s patents are exclusively licensed to Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies (IPAT), Ames, IA, a start-up company founded by two former Ames Laboratory employees, Joel Rieken and Andy Heidloff. Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies was one of three winners of the Department of Energy’s America’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge in 2012. The challenge recognizes some of the most innovative and promising startup companies that took an option to license DOE-funded technologies. IPAT also won the 2012 John Pappajohn Iowa Business Plan Competition, honoring top business plans of companies in business for four years or less, with an aim of stimulating business development.