According to Engineering News, The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on Tuesday further advanced its project to develop a local titanium industry when it signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with giant US aerospace group Boeing. This MoU covers joint research into using titanium powder in industrial manufacturing.
"This is for us a highlight of a relationship going back a number of years," affirmed CSIR Materials Science and Manufacturing unit Titanium Centre of Competence director Dr Willie du Preez. "There are a number of building blocks we are developing, to get a South African [titanium] industry. One of these is aerospace."
"Working together, we expect to, one day, develop new technology using titanium powder," said Boeing International VP: Africa Miguel Santos. "South Africa has a vision to invest in and develop a key technology with the potential to broaden its industry. It opens doors to the industrial supply of titanium for the aerospace industry."
"In South Africa, we know we are the second-largest producer of titanium mineral," noted Du Preez. "We don't [however] produce the titanium metal or the primary products, known as mill products." Mill products include titanium metal in bar, sheet and tube form.
Currently, South Africa mostly exports titanium in the form of titanium tetrachloride slag, which fetches only about $0.79/kg on the international markets. Titanium sheet can fetch up to $45/kg. The prices of finished titanium products are much higher still – vastly higher in the case of titanium components for the aerospace and medical sectors.
"Titanium is critically important to Boeing – 15% of the 787 [airliner] is made of titanium," highlighted Santos. "Using titanium powder has the potential to make the same components but more efficiently, with less waste, more quickly and hopefully more cheaply."
The MoU was signed at the CSIR International Convention Centre by Santos and by CSIR CEO Dr Sibusiso Sibisi. "It is an absolute delight and honour to be here today," said Sibisi, "to sign this MoU." Pointing out that his company had been cooperating with the CSIR for some five years, Santos enthused that the new agreement "will be good for Boeing – make no mistake about it."
The signing of this MoU follows the CSIR's formal launching, on Friday, of its Titanium Pilot Plant on its campus in Pretoria.
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