Technical Information: Characteristics
The fact that titanium sometimes is classified as difficult to machine by traditional methods in part can be explained by the physical, chemical, and mechanical properties of the metal. For example:
Titanium is a poor conductor of heat. Heat, generated by the cutting action, does not dissipate quickly. Therefore, most of the heat is concentrated on the cutting edge and the tool face.
Titanium has a strong alloying tendency or chemical reactivity with materials in the cutting tools at tool operating temperatures. This causes galling, welding, and smearing along with rapid destruction of the cutting tool.
Titanium has a relatively low modulus of elasticity, thereby having more “springiness” than steel. Work has a tendency to move away from the cutting tool unless heavy cuts are maintained or proper backup is employed. Slender parts tend to deflect under tool pressures, causing chatter, tool rubbing, and tolerance problems. Rigidity of the entire system is consequently very important, as is the use of sharp, properly shaped cutting tools.
Titanium’s fatigue properties are strongly influenced by a tendency to surface damage if certain machining techniques are used. Care must be exercised to avoid the loss of surface integrity, especially during grinding. (This characteristic is described in greater detail below.)
Titanium’s work-hardening characteristics are such that titanium alloys demonstrate a complete absence of “built-up edge.” Because of the lack of a stationary mass of metal (built-up edge) ahead of the cutting tool, a high shearing angle is formed. This causes a thin chip to contact a relatively small area on the cutting tool face and results in high bearing loads per unit area. The high bearing force, combined with the friction developed by the chip as it rushes over the bearing area, results in a great increase in heat on a very localized portion of the cutting tool. Furthermore, the combination of high bearing forces and heat produces cratering action close to the cutting edge, resulting in rapid tool breakdown.
With respect to titanium’s fatigue properties, briefly noted in the above list, the following details are of interest.
As stated, loss of surface integrity must be avoided. If this precaution is not observed, a dramatic loss of mechanical behavior (such as fatigue) can result. Even proper grinding practices using conventional parameters (wheel speed, downfeed, etc.) may result in appreciably lower fatigue strength due to surface damage. The basic fatigue properties of many titanium alloys rely on a favorable compressive surface stress induced by tool action during machining. Electromechanical removal of material, producing a stress-free surface, can cause a debit from the customary design fatigue strength properties. (These results are similar when mechanical processes such as grinding are involved, although the reasons are different.)