Heat Treatment of Nonferrous Metals – Part Six (Heat Treatment of Titanium)

in Aircraft Materials Processes and Hardware

Heat Treatment of Titanium

Titanium is heat treated for the following purposes:

  • Relief of stresses set up during cold forming or machining.
  • Annealing after hot working or cold working, or to provide maximum ductility for subsequent cold working.
  • Thermal hardening to improve strength.

Stress Relieving

Stress relieving is generally used to remove stress concentrations resulting from forming of titanium sheet. It is performed at temperatures ranging from 650 °F to 1,000 °F. The time at temperature varies from a few minutes for a very thin sheet to an hour or more for heavier sections. A typical stress relieving treatment is 900 °F for 30 minutes, followed by an air cool.

The discoloration or scale which forms on the surface of the metal during stress relieving is easily removed by pickling in acid solutions. The recommended solution contains 10 to 20 percent nitric acid and 1 to 3 percent hydrofluoric acid. The solution should be at room temperature or slightly above.

Full Annealing

The annealing of titanium and titanium alloys provides toughness, ductility at room temperature, dimensional and structural stability at elevated temperatures, and improved machinability.

The full anneal is usually called for as preparation for further working. It is performed at 1,200–1,650 °F. The time at temperature varies from 16 minutes to several hours, depending on the thickness of the material and the amount of cold work to be performed. The usual treatment for the commonly used alloys is 1,300 °F for 1 hour, followed by an air cool. A full anneal generally results in sufficient scale formation to require the use of caustic descaling, such as sodium hydride salt bath.

Thermal Hardening

Unalloyed titanium cannot be heat treated, but the alloys commonly used in aircraft construction can be strengthened by thermal treatment, usually at some sacrifice in ductility. For best results, a water quench from 1,450 °F, followed by reheating to 900 °F for 8 hours is recommended.


The chemical activity of titanium and its rapid absorption of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon at relatively low temperatures make casehardening advantageous for special applications. Nitriding, carburizing, or carbonitriding can be used to produce a wear-resistant case of 0.0001 to 0.0002 inch in depth.