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Metals Knowledge:Heat Treating of Titanium and Titanium Alloys

Published: 22 Oct 2009 01:52:47 PST

Titanium and titanium alloys are heat treated in order to:

·    Reduce residual stresses developed during fabrication (stress relieving)

·    Produce an optimum combination of ductility, machinability, and dimensional and structural stability (annealing)

·    Increase strength (solution treating and aging)

·    Optimize special properties such as fracture toughness, fatigue strength, and high-temperature creep strength.

Various types of annealing treatments (single, duplex, (beta), and recrystallization annealing, for example), and solution treating and aging treatments, are imposed to achieve selected mechanical properties. Stress relieving and annealing may be employed to prevent preferential chemical attack in some corrosive environments, to prevent distortion (a stabilization treatment) and to condition the metal for subsequent forming and fabricating operations.

Alloy Types and Response to Heat Treatment

The response of titanium and titanium alloys to heat treatment depends on the composition of the metal and the effects of alloying elements on the α-β crystal transformation of titanium. In addition, not all heat treating cycles are applicable to all titanium alloys, because the various alloys are designed for different purposes.

·    Alloys Ti-5Al-2Sn-2Zr-4Mo-4Cr and Ti-6Al-2Sn-4Zr-6Mo are designed for strength in heavy sections.

·    Alloys Ti- 6Al-2Sn-4Zr-2Mo and Ti-6Al-5Zr-0.5Mo-0.2Si for creep resistance.

·    Alloys Ti-6Al-2Nb-1 Ta-1Mo and Ti-6Al-4V, for resistance to stress corrosion in aqueous salt solutions and for high fracture toughness.

·    Alloys Ti-5Al-2.5Sn and Ti-2.5Cu for weldability; and

·    Ti-6Al-6V-2Sn, Ti-6Al-4V and Ti-10V-2Fe-3Al for high strength at low-to-moderate temperatures.

Effects of Alloying Elements on α-β Transformation. Unalloyed titanium is allotropic. Its close-packed hexagonal structure (α phase) changes to a body-centered cubic, structure (β-phase) at 885°C (1625°F), and this structure persists at temperatures up to the melting point.

With respect to their effects on the allotropic transformation, alloying elements in titanium are classified as α stabilizers or β stabilizers. Alpha stabilizers, such as oxygen and aluminum, raise the α-to-β transformation temperature. Nitrogen and carbon are also stabilizers, but these elements usually are not added intentionally in alloy formulation. Beta stabilizers, such as manganese, chromium, iron, molybdenum, vanadium, and niobium, lower the α-to-β transformation temperature and, depending on the amount added, may result in the retention of some β phase at room temperature.

Alloy Types. Based on the types and amounts of alloying elements they contain, titanium alloys are classified as α, near-α, α-β, or β alloys. The response of these alloy types to heat treatment is briefly described below.

Alpha and near-alpha titanium alloys can be stress relieved and annealed, but high strength cannot be developed in these alloys by any type of heat treatment (such as aging after a solution beta treatment and quenching).

The commercial β alloys are, in reality, metastable β alloys. When these alloys are exposed to selected elevated temperatures, the retained β phase decomposes and strengthening occurs. For β alloys, stress-relieving and aging treatments can be combined, and annealing and solution treating may be identical operations.

Alpha-beta alloys are two-phase alloys and, as the name suggests, comprise both α and β phases at room temperature. These are the most common and the most versatile of the three types of titanium alloys.

Oxygen and iron levels have significant effects on mechanical properties after heat treatment. It should be realized that:

·    Oxygen and iron must be near specified maximums to meet strength levels in certain commercially pure grades

·    Oxygen must be near a specified maximum to meet strength levels in solution treated and aged Ti-6Al-4 V

·    Oxygen levels must be kept as low as possible to optimize fracture toughness. However, the oxygen level must be high enough to meet tensile strength requirements

·    Iron content must be kept as low as possible to optimize creep and stress-rupture properties. Most creep-resistant alloys require iron levels at or below 0.05wt%.

Stress Relieving

Titanium and titanium alloys can be stress relieved without adversely affecting strength or ductility.

Stress-relieving treatments decrease the undesirable residual stresses that result from first, nonuniform hot forging or deformation from cold forming and straightening, second, asymmetric machining of plate or forgings, and, third, welding and cooling of castings. The removal of such stresses helps maintain shape stability and eliminates unfavorable conditions, such as the loss of compressive yield strength commonly known as the Bauschinger effect.

When symmetrical shapes are machined in the annealed condition using moderate cuts and uniform stock removal, stress relieving may not be required. Compressor disks made of Ti-6Al-4V has been machined satisfactorily in this manner, conforming with dimensional requirements. In contrast, thin rings made of the same alloy could be machined at a higher production rate to more stringent dimensions by stress relieving 2 h at 540°C (1000°F) between, rough and final machining. Separate stress relieving may be omitted when the manufacturing sequence can be adjusted to use annealing or hardening as the stress-relieving process. For example, forging stresses may be relieved by annealing prior to machining.


The annealing of titanium and titanium alloys serves primarily to increase fracture toughness, ductility at room temperature, dimensional and thermal stability, and creep resistance. Many titanium alloys are placed in service in the annealed state. Because improvement in one or more properties is generally obtained at the expense of some other property, the annealing cycle should be selected according to the objective of the treatment.

Common annealing treatments are:

·    Mill annealing

·    Duplex annealing

·    Recrystallization annealing

·    Beta annealing

Mill annealing is a general-purpose treatment given to all mill products. It is not a full anneal and may leave traces of cold or warm working in the microstructures of heavily worked products, particularly sheet.

Duplex annealing alters the shapes, sizes, and distributions of phases to those required for improved creep resistance or fracture toughness. In the duplex anneal of the Corona 5 alloy, for example, the first anneal is near the β transus to globularize the deformed α and to minimize its volume fraction. This is followed by a second, lower-temperature anneal to precipitate new lenticular (acicular) α between the globular α particles. This formation of acicular α is associated with improvements in creep strength and fracture toughness.

Recrystallization annealing and β annealing are used to improve fracture toughness. In recrystallization annealing, the alloy is heated into the upper end of the α-β range, held for a time, and then cooled very slowly. In recent years, recrystallization annealing has replaced β annealing for fracture critical airframe components.

β (Beta) Annealing. Like recrystallization annealing, β annealing improves fracture toughness. Beta annealing is done at temperatures above the β transus of the alloy being annealed. To prevent excessive grain growth, the temperature for β annealing should be only slightly higher than the β transus. Annealing times are dependent on section thickness and should be sufficient for complete transformation. Time at temperature after transformation should be held to a minimum to control β grain growth. Larger sections should be fan cooled or water quenched to prevent the formation of a phase at the β grain boundaries.

Straightening, sizing, and flattening of titanium alloys are often necessary in order to meet dimensional requirements. The straightening of bar to close tolerances and the flattening of sheet present major problems for titanium producers and fabricators.

Unlike aluminum alloys, titanium alloys are not easily straightened when cold because the high yield strength and modulus of elasticity of these alloys result in significant springback. Therefore, titanium alloys are straightened primarily by creep straightening and/or hot straightening (hand or die), with the former being considerably more prevalent than the latter.

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