Titanium, the metal of choice in Sporting Goods
Titanium is well known for its applications in aerospace and military industries, but its characteristics also make it a perfect choice for the recreational sector, too. It’s so easy to focus on the potential improvements in airline fuel economy or corrosion resistance on navy ships that we quickly overlook how it affects products we use every day.
Titanium has become a popular choice for a wide range of sporting goods because even a small amount of weight reduction can make a big difference in performance. In a competitive environment, any advantage can make one product stand out over all the rest.
The first real commercial use of titanium in sporting goods was back in the 1990s. Golf club manufacturers began using it to manufacture larger club heads without increasing the overall weight. This meant that they could provide a bigger “sweet spot” which led to more accurate shots and longer distances.
What Makes Titanium Great for Sports
In any sporting activity that involves some kind of specialized gear, the athlete is either moving the equipment or is being moved by the equipment. In either case, the lighter the items are, the more performance an athlete can get out of them. Of course, no matter how much they weigh, they still have to be durable enough to last a long time.
There are many beneficial characteristics of titanium that make it a great choice for a variety of sporting goods. These are the same properties that make it appealing in many different industries, but in the sports industries, the applications are a little different. These characteristics include:
- High strength-to-weight ratio
- Corrosion resistance
- Damage/scratch tolerance
- Low modulus of elasticity
It’s the combination of that low modulus of elasticity and the high strength characteristics that make it so appealing for so many different applications. Some of the more common ones being:
- Skis and ski poles
- Bike frames and components
- Tennis rackets
- Golf clubs
- Camping gear
- Hiking equipment
Some other uses require a little more explanation. For example:
Baseball / softball bats
As soon as manufacturers began using titanium, the whole game changed. In fact, it made such a huge difference in performance that they are now banned in almost any kind of league play. They still exist, however, and are most often used for batting practice.
Most aluminum bats have a double-wall design, which allows them to take more hits before going dead. Titanium, on the other hand, is strong enough that bats can be made with a single, light-weight wall while still maintaining its durability. However, it also means the ball will jump off the bat too fast, making it dangerous for the pitchers and too easy to put the ball over the fence.
Many climbers found that even stainless steel bolts couldn’t handle adverse weather conditions for long without starting to corrode. When your life depends on hanging from some of these small, metal items, you need to know that everything is going to hold up. Titanium’s strength and resistance to corrosion makes it ideal for this industry.
Titanium’s corrosion resistance is also extremely effective for the dedicated fisher. Titanium can be used for everything from rods and reels to hooks and other tools. This is particularly important if for anyone who takes their fishing out into salty waters.
Titanium faceguards for lacross and softball helmets provide the necessary strength to keep the athlete safe without weighing them down. A steel faceguard would typically be twice as heavy as one made from steel.
Choosing the Right Titanium
Titanium pipe, sheet, and other milled products are all commonly used in the sporting goods industry. Surface finishes included pickling, black, sandblasted, and others. The actual grades will depend on the application. However, Grade 5 is usually the go-to metal for many different products. It has the necessary corrosion resistance, formability, and can be heat treated to increase its strength.
Is Carbon an Option?
Carbon fiber has also emerged as an option for strong lightweight materials in sporting equipment. While it is certainly a good option for some applications, it doesn’t have all the same characteristics as titanium, though, so it may not be useful in as many products.
3D printing is opening up a lot of new opportunities in this industry. Currently, titanium is the strongest metal that can be 3D printed, which means it’s possible to create very “organic” shapes that wouldn’t be possible through normal milling techniques.
The technology has advanced significantly in the last few years. In fact, one company (Empire Cycles in the UK) has gone so far as to print an entire bike.
This is obviously not the top option for mass producing bikes, but it shows that it is possible to use these new processes to remove a lot of unnecessary weight and design new shapes that can be used in new and innovative ways.
Most sports won’t need this kind of development, of course. (Let’s face it, a bat is a bat. A racket is a racket.) But there are some instances – like in bikes and other racing vehicles – in which it is possible to use extremely complex geometries created from CAD data to develop new equipment.
The recreational sector may not be the first thing that comes to a person’s mind when they think about titanium, but this metal has made significant inroads into the industry and will continue to be used in a wide range of sporting equipment.
For more information on Titanium Processing Center visit www.titaniumprocessingcenter.com.
Titanium Processing Center (Corporate)
51513 Industrial Road
New Baltimore, Michigan 48047
Toll-free: 888.771.9449 | Phone: 586.716.7555 | Fax: 586.716.8430
Titanium Processing Center Texas Group
8601 Fawn Trail Bldg. #2
Conroe, Texas 77385
Phone: 936-271-7773 | Fax: 936-271-7783