Titanium is a naturally occurring element that is light weight but extremely strong. These two combined benefits make titanium an extremely popular choice amongst industrial manufacturers. Titanium’s metallurgical characteristics makes it the metal of choice for many diverse applications including aerospace, industrial, chemical processing, marine, medical, sporting, and consumer goods. The original application for this metal was in the military aerospace industry specifically because of its efficiencies in structural qualities, a result of titanium’s strength and density.
Note: This process is in reference to plating titanium as a substrate and not utilizing titanium as a plating mechanism for other substrates.
Physical Properties of Titanium Plating
In addition to its high strength-to-weight ratio titanium also has a relatively high melting point of over 1,650 °C, which makes it useful as a refractory metal. Titanium is also paramagnetic and has low electrical and thermal conductivity. Other characteristics that are common to titanium, include:
- High Strength
- Low weight
- Low density
- High melting point
- Metallic-white color
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Titanium Substrate Plating Applications
Since titanium has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio as well as a high melting point it is extremely useful for countless industries throughout the world. Additionally, titanium’s low density and abundant availability make it one of the most sought-after elements on the periodic table. The following industries regularly use titanium or titanium substrate plating within their everyday applications.
Titanium’s combination of light weight and superior strength makes it the ideal choice for medical implants such as the ball and socket joints used in hip replacements. Titanium is also biocompatible, meaning it is non-toxic to the human body. Many surgical instruments are now made of titanium. Other common medical applications for titanium applications include the manufacturing of crutches and wheelchairs.
Titanium and titanium plating can be found in many different types of aircraft. Its light weight nature can enhance the aerodynamics of an aircraft and provide improved fuel efficiency. Other beneficial properties of titanium include exceptional corrosion, fatigue and crack resistance, along with the ability to withstand relatively high temperatures. In addition to airplanes, titanium is also used in the manufacturing of missiles and spacecraft.
Since titanium can withstand the corrosive forces of the salt found in seawater, titanium is regularly used in many marine applications. One common example is the manufacturing of components used in underwater surveillance cameras and other devices.
Electrodeposition on Titanium
Electrodeposition on titanium with other elements can be a beneficial undertaking that can provide many advantages. However, plating on titanium can be an extremely difficult process. Plating on titanium can help enhance the properties that already exist with the metal, making it even more beneficial to the manufacturing and metal finishing processes. Reasons to implement a titanium electroplating process include enhancing the metal’s ability to resist surface fatigue and fretting and anti-galling properties. Titanium substrate plating can also be used to improve the following scenarios:
- Corrosion resistance in hot acidic environments
- Increasing or decreasing electrical conductivity
- Heat deflection
- To add lubricity
- Repair or resize certain applications
Titanium Plating is Extremely Difficult
Plating on a substrate of Titanium has always been considered a very difficult process to consistently achieve. This is due to highly reactive nature of titanium when combined with the oxygen that is produced by many plating processes. These processes form a passive film on the underlying substrate that affect the way the substrate and titanium react with each other. The passive film largely prevents sufficient bonding of the metal coating that is applied during plating, rendering the process ineffective. Currently, there are only a handful of metal finishing entities that can provide a reliable cost-effective titanium electroplating process.
Successful Titanium Substrate Plating Techniques
For electrodeposition on titanium to be successful the chosen process must promote adhesion between the metal coating and the substrate. The method must also completely remove the native oxide and keep it away for the duration of the plating process. Since titanium plating is an advanced technology that not everyone has finding a plating-on-titanium company that can achieve each of these objectives can be nearly as difficult as the process itself.
Surface Substrate Preparation for Titanium Plating
Since titanium oxides are almost impossible to remove proper preparation of the substrate is essential when utilizing electrodeposition on titanium. Passivity is the enemy of titanium, when active, titanium can pass electrons and build a new surface structure. Bead blasting and mechanical ablation is the only way for titanium to become active.
Titanium Substrate Plating with Nickel
Nickel is one of the few elements that can be successfully used to plate titanium. A plating of nickel onto a titanium substrate can increase its’ corrosion resistance and make it less susceptible to wear.
Titanium Substrate Plating with Gold
Titanium is often coated with a thin layer of gold to enhance the appearance of the substrate. An important factor in the success of any gold-on-titanium plating process is the total removal of titanium dioxide prior to plating to ensure a complete and continuous surface coating. One common issue when electroplating titanium onto gold is the formation of small holes, cracks and other surface imperfections. These problems can often be prevented by applying an electroless nickel coating prior to gold electroplating.