Titanium, named by the German chemist M.H. Klaproth, was initially discovered by an English pastor named William Gregor in 1791. Named after the Titans, mythological deities of unparalleled strength, both men recognized titanium’s enormous potential. It was not until 1910, however, when Matthew Hunter isolated titanium as a pure metal element, that large scale manufacturing of titanium became possible. Hunter’s discovery would go on to influence the practice of medicine more than these scientific pioneers could have possibly imagined.
Strong, corrosion resistant and found abundantly in nature, titanium and its alloys are prized for their biocompatibility, ease of fabrication and resistance to high temperatures. But among its many positive characteristics, titanium is perhaps most prized for its weight to strength ratio. As strong as steel and twice as strong as aluminum, titanium is still 45% lighter than steel and only 60% heavier than aluminum.
Titanium is an ideal alloying agent for the medical industry because it is strong, light, bacterial and corrosion resistant, non-toxic and extremely durable. Medical titanium implants have been known to last as long as 20 years, and even longer as dental implants. Titanium implants remain firmly in place in part because of their unique biocompatible nature. Titanium allows osseointegration, a process where the body’s bone and tissue bonds directly to the implanted device. Also, because titanium implants are non-ferromagnetic, patients can be scanned effectively and safely in MRI machines.
Titanium is especially beneficial for patients undergoing hip, knee and joint replacements because surgically implanted joints made with titanium are lightweight without sacrificing strength. As our society ages and recreational injuries become more commonplace, titanium joint replacements will help millions of patients recover and resume activity faster and easier than ever before.
The medical device industry relies heavily on titanium and its alloys for surgical instruments, orthopedic titanium rods, bone screws, pins and dental implants. Medical grade titanium (e.g. titanium 6AL4V and 6AL4V ELI) are among the most commonly used alloys, and are comprised of titanium, Aluminum and Vanadium. Sometimes referred to as Gr. 5 and Gr. 23 or Ti-6Al-4V and Ti-Al-4V, titanium is often used in dental implants because of its fracture resistance, durability and biocompatibility.
Confluent Maine has produced titanium parts for a variety of applications, most notably bone nails. Our machinists have also machined development stage parts for other medical devices and for aerospace applications.