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The BAE Systems Joint Light Tactical Vehicle  (Source: Courtesy of
Less costly manufacturing may put titanium in everyone's doors.

Titanium, since its discovery in the late 1700s, has been something of a wonder metal. A naturally occurring element, it has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any known metal, and while some steel alloys compare in strength, titanium is nearly half as heavy. Titanium is also highly corrosion resistant, making it ideal for use in many applications. Titanium is used in everything from pigments to aerospace materials to medical devices and has garnered a keen interest by the military since the 1950s.

Though the element is incredibly useful, the high cost of producing it has kept it out of general use. In 2006, DuPont and Materials and Electrochemical Research Corporation were awarded $5.7 million by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to engineer new processes to create titanium powder more efficiently.

Now, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has found a way to reduce the cost of creating useful titanium parts even further -- by up to 50%, states a press release at ORNL. Rather than employing a typical melt-type process, the ORNL technique, which is being jointly developed by ORNL, International Titanium Powders, Ametek and BAE Systems, leaves the powder in its solid form and employed roll compaction to produce sheets of metal. Once the sheets are made, extrusion and press and sinter processes can be used to create various forms and parts.

"We recently exhibited the new low-cost titanium alloy door made by ORNL for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, which is a next-generation combat vehicle. By using a titanium alloy for the door, BAE Systems was able to reduce the weight of its vehicle yet at the same time decrease the threat of armor-piercing rounds," explains Bill Peter, a researcher in ORNL's Materials Science and Technology Division.

Not only will ORNL's fabrication process enable safer and more durable vehicles for military use, medical science will benefit from the lower cost of producing things like joint replacements and dental implants. Vehicles based on titanium rather than steel could have stronger, safer frames while enabling greater fuel efficiency due to reduced weight. This could yield tremendous results when combined with evolving hybrid electric or fuel cell-powered consumer automobiles.

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RE: Bigger problem
By Desslok on 5/23/2008 8:13:35 PM , Rating: 1
At least the STi's wing serves SOME purpose since it is an AWD car. Now these jokers that put them on a FWD car I will never understand.

RE: Bigger problem
By Calin on 5/24/2008 2:18:28 AM , Rating: 3
a front wheel drive car still needs grip on its rear tires (for cornering at speed). The usual shape of the cars create naturally a lifting force at the rear end, and here is where the wing has an effect.
While rear wings on a rear wheel drive car will allow it to accelerate faster at speed than at rest (see formula 1 cars), rear wings on a front wheel drive car will allow it to corner faster (keep the rear from skiding).

RE: Bigger problem
By mindless1 on 5/26/2008 12:08:39 AM , Rating: 2
Actually no, FWD cars exhibit plowing, not rear skid, first.

RE: Bigger problem
By darkpuppet on 5/26/2008 11:11:18 AM , Rating: 2
well, FWD has inherent understeer properties, but all road-going cars are engineered for a certain amount of understeer, regardless of if they're FWD, RWD, or AWD. It makes cars safer for the unsuspecting masses.

But understeer can be engineered out of a car easily enough...

Slap a big anti-roll bar into the rear of a FWD car, and you'll have a FWD car that is prone to oversteer (off-throttle oversteer or braking oversteer).

Granted, most wings slapped onto FWD cars (especially your typical Hot Import Nights car) aren't set up properly and do very little for improving traction. However, a properly set up wing will benefit any car regardless of which wheels are driven.

And when you slap a wing on a sedan, bigger is often better, since you want at least a portion of that wing in clean air, and not that turbulent mess that comes off your roofline (which could be fixed with some vortex generators, IMO).. it's not uncommon to see miata's with wings spread past their body lines on high-calibur auto-x events.

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