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Soviet / Russian Titanium Industry

In the early 1950s, the military-political doctrines of the superpowers justified the construction of two main systems: aerospace to achieve superiority in air and space, as well as the sea, providing a rocket shield. A prerequisite for solving the first task was a breakthrough in the field of creating materials with high specific strength for all types of aircraft. The leading direction in this area was the production technology of products from titanium alloys.

Industrial production of titanium was set up in the Soviet Union in the early 1950s. For several decades, titanium had been used by the Soviets in the manufacture of stainless steel, but only since 1952 had the Soviet press published articles on research in the development and use of titanium metal. The USSR assigned high priority to the expansion of production of titanium because of growing requirements and, to a lesser extent, because of the almost complete embargo on shipments of titanium from the Free World to the Communist countries [the country with the largest known reserves was the Soviet Union]. Soviet production of titanium sponge increased by about 70 percent from 1958 to 1962, but in September 1962 a Soviet journal reported that production of titanium "still lagged behind requirements." The uses for titanium included parts for the manufacture of aircraft and space vehicles and for production of corrosion-resisting equipment used in certain chemical processing industries.

In accordance with plans for the development of the national economy and scientific work in the USSR, a great deal of research was done starting in the early 1950s in the field of metallurgy of titanium, the theory of titanium alloys; many compositions for titanium alloys were developed, and production processes for industry; work was done on the design and creation of unique industrial machinery, plants, apparatus, and testing and series operational testing was carried out. The technical and economic efficiency of using titanium and its alloys in a number of branches of industry were demonstrated.

Within a few years, the production of titanium was mastered in the USSR, and at a higher level. In Ukraine, the Urals, and Kazakhstan, there were established production facilities for producing titanium concentrates and spongy titanium of the grades TG-1, TG-2. At the same time, Soviet specialists, as a rule, followed the original way. In Giredmet (now OAO Giredmet, SSC RF, a leading research and design organization for a materials science profile) and at the Podolsk chemical-metallurgical plant, various technologies for the production of ingots were developed at the Podolsk Chemical and Metallurgical Plant with the help of scientists from the Central Research Institute of Prometheus. By the middle of 1955, experts arrived at a final conclusion: titanium should be melted in arc furnaces proposed by Prometheus. Then this technology was transferred to Verkhne-Salda Metalworking Plant (VSMOZ) in the city of Verkhnyaya Salda in the Urals.

In 1958, a radical restructuring of the titanium industry in the country began. The corresponding subdivision appeared in the Central Research Institute of Chemical Engineering "Prometheus" - first, department No. 8, and then departments No. 18, 19. A team of eminent scientists created a scientific direction — marine titanium alloys. The collectives of the titanium-magnesium plants of Zaporizhia (ZTMK) and Bereznikovsky (BTMK) together with the experts of the All-Union Aluminum-Magnesium Institute (VAMI), Giredmet and with the active participation of scientists from the Scientific Research Institute KM "Prometheus" did a lot of work to improve the technology for manufacturing titanium sponge. Domestic industry was able to produce large ingots weighing four to six tons for submarines. It was a big win. They solved the problem of obtaining defect-free high quality ingots.

There are a lot of sources of defects - wrong melting mode, carbide inclusions (tungsten carbides, oxidized sponge, high content of waste in electrodes, etc.), shrinkage friability and the appearance of sinks. All these difficulties of large masses were transferred to metallurgists from "aviators". After the reorganization of the industry, the production volumes, the size and weight of the ingots increased. Their mass reached four tons and more.

This huge work was done by many scientific and industrial collectives of research institutes and factories of a number of ministries (non-ferrous metallurgy, aviation and ship building industries, general machine design, chemical and oil machine construction, the chemical industry and others). Institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR participate creatively in research on metallurgy, physical metallurgy, the metal chemistry of titanium, and in developing new titianium alloys, their testing and adoption in industry.

The directives of the Twenty-third Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in connection with the 1966-1970 Five-Year Plan for development of the USSR's national economy provided for an additional sharp increase in the production of new, progressive materials and their extensive introduction into the economy. These materials include titanium.

Titanium - Background

In 1789, while studying the chemical composition of a magnetlc sand from the village of Manaccan, the English scientist W. Gregor found a new earths, which he named manaccanitic earth. In 1795, M. Klaproth found a hitherto unknown metal in the mineral rutile and named it titanium; two years later, he himself established the identity between rutile and manaccanitic earth. In 2910, M. Hunter prepared a relatively pure and ductile titanium. As late as 1948, titanium was still being described as a brittle metal useful chiefly for alloying and dioxidizing steels.

The ore is chemically reduced to a highly porous, brittle mass known as titanium sponge. To create a usable metal the sponge must be compressed and is usually double-melted in an electric furnace. A small amount of clean scrap, and alloying elements as desired, are mixed with the compressed sponge before the melting process. The resulting ingot may be used in the process of making castings but for the most part is worked by various mill processes into wrought forms such as billet, plate, sheet, strip, rod, bar, wire, pipe, and tubes. Subsequent processing of the various products is required to complete them for their ultimate uses.

The scientific and technical basis for the wide use of Titanium are the following properties of titanium and especially its alloys: low specific weight, high strength, corrosion resistance in many agressive media, suitability for industrial production, weldability, resistance to the corrosion under stress, to concentrated stress and many others. Titanium metal and its alloys are desirable materials for ship hulls and other structures because of their high strength, light weight and corrosion-resistance. If constructed in titanium, Navy ships would have lighter weight for the same size—allowing for a bigger payload—and virtually no corrosion.

But because titanium costs up to nine times more than steel and is technically difficult and expensive to manufacture into marine vessel hulls, it has been generally avoided by the shipbuilding industry. Titanium needs a totally different manufacturing process; shipyard workers must be retrained; construction halls must be reconfigured; and bending and shaping of heavy plates of titanium alloy are far more difficult compared to steel. Titanium proved to be very difficult to work with. Its extreme hardness caused problems in machining and shaping the material. Drills broke and tools snapped, and new ones had to be devised. Titanium also was very sensitive to contaminants, such as chlorine and cadmium.

American Views

In the West, CIA had, as early as 1971, published analysis—Use of Titanium by the Soviet Shipbuilding Industry — that strongly supported the assessment that the otherwise conservative Soviets had conducted serious, long-time research on shaping and welding heavy titanium plates, and that they had in fact developed that capability.

Others Western analysts were skeptical. They thought that the shaping and welding of heavy titanium hull sections, especially in the generally “dirty” shipyard atmosphere, was impractical, if not impossible. This, too, was a totally reasonable assessment, because titanium cannot be welded when exposed to air; welds have to be shielded, usually by argon gas. The consensus was that the Soviets could weld small parts of titanium, such as those for aircraft or missiles, in hermetically sealed chambers, but that it was impossible to weld huge submarine pressure hull sections.

The 27 January 1956 issue of the American Metal Market carried on page 3 an article headlined "Soviet Output of Titanium May Be Greater Than Ours." The article went onto say that "government officials said that there is substantial evidence available that Russian titanium production may be greater than our own, and may in fact reach a top figure of between 90,000 and 95,000 tons per year." CIA inquired through the Office of Operations who the Government officials were but had no success. In any case, considering that the U.S. produced only 7,200 tons of titanium metal in 1955 after investing millions of dollars inresearch and development, and having access to large quantities ofrutile, and also considering that no evidence of application of titanium metal in the USSR has been found, CIA considered such a report as unfounded.

On occasion politics takes a backseat even when it comes to exports. Thus because it has found itself in need of increasing amounts of hard currency, the Soviet Union seemed to have found it expedient to export products that normally it would have preferred to have kept at home. Thus the Soviet Union exported titanium sponge, even though titanium has very important strategic significance. Ironically the United States banned the sale of titanium to the Soviet Union even though they sold it to the USA. In a sense, the Soviet need to earn the hard currency which the sale of such strategic items makes possible, suggests that at times, the Soviets were prepared to sell us the rope that may someday be used to hang them.

American imports from the U.S.S.R. began in 1965. In the period 1965-66, such imports equalled 2 percent of all imports of sponge. In 1967 they equalled 19 percent of all such imports and attempts were made to sell 10 million pounds on an annual basis which would equal 68 percent of all imports of sponge in 1967 or nearly one-fourth of the amount of sponge consumed in the United States in 1967.

On April 23, 1968, the Tariff Commission received advice from the Treasury Department that titanium sponge from the U.S.S.R. was being, or was likely to be, sold in the United States at less than fair value within the meaning of the Antidumping Act, 1921, as amended. Accordingly, on April 24, 1968, the Commission instituted Investigation No. AA1921-51 under section 201(a) of that Act to determine whether an industry in the United States is being or is likely to be injured, or is prevented from being established, by reason of the importation of such merchandise into the United States. On the basis of the investigation, the Commission has determined that an industry in the United States is being injured by reason of the importation of titanium sponge from the U.S.S.R.

On August 28, 1968, the Department of the Treasury published an antidumping findings on titanium sponge from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) (33 FR 12138). In December 1991, the USSR divided into fifteen independent states. To conform to these changes, the Department changed the original antidumping finding into fifteen findings applicable to the Baltic states and the former Republics of the USSR (57 FR 36070, August 12, 1992). In 1995 the Department of Commerce conducted an administrative review of the antidumping finding on titanium sponge from Russia. The review covered four manufacturers/exporters, VILS-All Union Institute of Light Alloys (VILS), Verkhnaya Salda Metallurgical Production Organization (VSMPO), V/O Techsnabexport (TENEX), and the Berezniki Titanium-Magnesium Works (AVISMA), and exports of the subject merchandise to the United States for the period August 1, 1992 through July 31, 1993. The Department preliminarily determined that respondents did not export titanium sponge to the United States during the period of review.

Titanium Sculpture

The world's only extant titanium sculpture is the well-known 42.5 meters tall monument in Moscow to first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. On April 12, 1961 Yuri Gagarin began his epic journey into space on board the Vostok-1 spaceship. Gagarin, who died in a 1968 plane crash, is commemorated by a number of monuments, sculptures, busts and obelisks. The monument to his achievement, situated on Moscow’s Gagarin square (till 1968 – Kaluzhskaya zastava square), was unveiled on July 4, 1980 when the Olympic Games were being held in Moscow. The monument was created by sculptor – P.I. Bondarenko, architects – Ya.B. Belopolsky, F.M. Gazhevsky, and designer - A.F. Sudakov. The Monument to Gagarin features an inspirational design with Gagarin in his space suit, arms partially raised as if he were about to leap into the sky. One of the highest monuments in Moscow, the monument is situated exactly at that place, where it should be seen even from Moscow MKAD Ring Road.

The Sverdlovsk Region is home to the world's largest producer of titanium, a metal widely used in aviation and other manufacturing. The Titanium Valley Zone has been established to attract Russian and international industrial groups interested in access to unique industrial resources and also prepared to invest in the Russian economy. Titanium Valley Special Economic Zone is a Russian government-backed project that aims to attract major international industrial groups by offering them tax incentives and access to Russia's mining, refining and manufacturing facilities.

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Page last modified: 16-05-2019 18:50:53 ZULU