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Is titanium capable of being used in I-beams.... enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Virtually any solid material with usable tensile and compressive strengths can be used in I-beam form. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Feb 19 at 1:23
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    $\begingroup$ why not? ... you can even fold paper into an I-beam or make pasta in that shape $\endgroup$
    – jsotola
    Feb 19 at 6:36

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Not to repeat, but in addition to being very expensive it is very expensive to work with. So, pretty much only governments can afford it. It absorbs oxygen and nitrogen from air at the hot temperatures needed for conventional hot rolling. Hot pressing in inert gas is one process to work Ti. Depending on the environment it will be used in; Any steel rubbed onto the Ti surface by steel dies will be a path for entry of hydrogen causing hydriding. Footnote: It is hell to drill a hole in and chlorinated cutting fluid must be used. Addenda ; there is hot rolling info on the net but it is not a casual read. Various ( expensive) techniques are used ; Heat in protective atmosphere, maximize the reduction ( several size rollers) for each cycle. and vacuum anneal afterwards to remove oxygen and nitrogen. And other techniques. Basically you can't afford titanium shapes.

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    $\begingroup$ ...unless you are building SR-71's, with no budget or schedule limitations! $\endgroup$ Feb 20 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ "It is hell to drill a hole in and chlorinated cutting fluid must be used" - should that be "non-chlorinated"? $\endgroup$ Feb 20 at 11:21
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    $\begingroup$ You essentially can't drill with out chlorinated cutting fluid, try it. $\endgroup$ Feb 20 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ I thought that chlorinated fluid could attack it, but I just found a paper that says whether or not such fluids are suitable depends on the titanium alloy and end-use: Technical Information: Cutting Fluids. $\endgroup$ Feb 20 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ I bumped into titanium more than most metallurgists; Amoco was the largest producer o terephthalic acid ( polyester) and made it in Ti clad vessels with associated piping and exchangers. Got me a trip to IMI, Ti mill, Swansea UK . Also Timet promoted Ti drill pipe for special wells so they came to tell me how good it was . Amoco also tested Ti; one disappointing result was we found that Ti ignites at room temperature in bromine , but it was a nice day for a walk in the parking lot. Other stories but this is already too much. $\endgroup$ Feb 21 at 1:24
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Yes, but titanium is very difficult to roll into structural shapes like I-beams in a rolling mill and extremely sensitive to chemical attack by washing solutions that contain chlorine, for example. So all the commonly-used rolling mill practices used with steel cannot be used with titanium. It's just a pain to work with.

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    $\begingroup$ I-beams can be made by welding. $\endgroup$ Feb 20 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrewMorton Welding titanium is also very difficult and is extremely specialized work. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Feb 20 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ From an editorial feature Titanium - Welding and Heat Treating from 2002: "The fabrication of titanium product forms into complex shapes is routine for many fabricators. These shops recognized long ago that titanium is not an exotic material requiring exotic fabrication techniques." makes it sound like now that techniques have been developed, it is not the problem it was in the 1950s. I just thought that welding might be usefully less difficult than rolling for titanium. $\endgroup$ Feb 20 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ So an organization promoting the use of Ti says it is not difficult to handle exotic metal- ?-don't believe every thig you read. Only one error I will point out is the color of heliarc welds; any color darker the pale yellow is brittle from too much oxygen, gold is unacceptable. The special trailing shield must be carefully manipulated. You can't grind off the color and call it good. That would be like painting over dry rot wood and calling it good. $\endgroup$ Feb 21 at 1:10
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    $\begingroup$ @AndrewMorton Sure, and brain surgery is also routine in many hospitals - that doesn't mean that it isn't significantly more complex than setting a bone. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Feb 21 at 16:26
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Yes. Besides aerospace, titanium structural elements are fairly common in offshore oil and gas and chemical industries.

You can order titanium I-beams online, with prices available at some websites. I'm not affiliated with any, example supplier: https://www.hiteshsteel.com/titanium-i-beam-angle-channel-chain.html

However, titanium is far more often used as H-beams rather than I-beams. H-beams have wider flanges and are usually welded from separate plates for the web and the flanges. To a non-structural-engineer, H- and I-beams usually look the same.

As they are typically custom-made for the particular project, welded H-beams can be made longer than rolled I-beams, tailored precisely to the load, and sometimes vary in cross-section along the beam. When the project calls for titanium, the added expense of H-beams over I-beams is generally warranted.

Historically, in the Cold War days, titanium supply was limited in the West, and welding techniques for it were underdeveloped, leading to a few myths and legends surrounding the SR-71 and Soviet subs. The latter used weldable titanium alloys, requiring just a regular argon shield, which later were developed in the West as well.

By now weldable alloys are common worldwide. There's a bit more initial cost for titanium, but no need for coatings and their re-application. Ti vs steel cost is a calculation for every particular project, which steel tends to win unless there are weight (aerospace) or corrosion concerns (marine).

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Yes, Titanium can be used as a structural material (not necessarily I beam), though rare. Here are two structures made of titanium, Monument to Yuri Gagarin and Monument to the Conquerors of Space, both located in Moscow. Also, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, and Cerritos Library in California both feature exterior clad with Titanium panels.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure the titanium actually plays a structural role in any of these buildings? $\endgroup$ Feb 20 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ No, the titanium is not structural, only a cladding. $\endgroup$ Feb 20 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Kubahasn'tforgottenMonica: Every source I'm seeing says the Monument to Yuri Gagarin is entirely titanium, bolted and welded together. I'm not seeing any indication it's only a cladding, especially since they were having trouble getting parts into big enough ovens. Though I'm not sure that's really "structural" in the sense that I-beams are part of a larger structure. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelS
    Feb 21 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelS Structural = load bearing $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Feb 22 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen: I understand that, but to some degree everything bears its own load. The statue in question has "structural" components of titanium that hold up the rest of the statue, but the original question was, I think, focused more on a structure like a building where the titanium is holding up many tons of weight beyond it's own frame. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelS
    Feb 23 at 0:41

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