Waikato's titanium research key part of new facility

28 June 2010

Deliang Zhang

Leading work: Waikato University's Professor Deliang Zhang.

Research at the University of Waikato has played a key part in a new facility dedicated to creating a titanium industry in New Zealand.

The Titanium Industry Development Association (TiDA) opens its facility in Tauranga on Friday. The two-storey building, complete with an array of titanium testing equipment, is at Windermere Campus, the site the University of Waikato shares with the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic. Dr Wayne Mapp, the Minister for Research, Science and Technology, will open the 600sq m building on July 2.

TiDA was formed about 18 months ago to help firms develop new titanium products for the international market using powder metallurgy consolidation methods. Titanium is sought after as it has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal.

It’s used for components in the aerospace, medical and automotive industries and in the latest laptops and cellphones. Products made using titanium alloy powders are even stronger and can withstand higher temperatures.

TiDA helps co-ordinate the titanium industry’s activities and is funded by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, the Tertiary Education Commission and private enterprise.

It sprung from the work of Titanox Development Ltd, which was established in 1997 to develop market-ready products based on the work led by Waikato University’s Professor Deliang Zhang.

Professor Zhang says it’s pleasing to see the government’s commitment to the industry.

Waikato researchers are now working on technology for consolidating titanium powders into solid products using low-cost and internationally competitive methods.

TiDA Chief Executive Warwick Downing says there is potential for titanium to provide a $1 billion industry for the nation, and his organisation plans to help deliver that by working closely with researchers, scientists and businesses that are pushing the boundaries with titanium. The specialised equipment at the Tauranga site will help Waikato University researchers further their work, he says.

“Waikato University is a key partner in the development of the new industry,” Mr Downing says. “The collaboration between industry and research organisations will be a key element to ensure a successful and vibrant industry. Our goal is to put New Zealand companies in the driving seat for technology globally; this is our chance to lead the world.”

The TiDA facility will test alloy materials for businesses, focus on skills training, and implement and run a national research and development strategy for titanium among other tasks.

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