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unobtainium no more

Big Pimpin'

Advances in composite materials and high-modulus rigging fibres in the last few decades have gone far to reduce, if not eliminate, the use of metals on many performance yachts. Aluminum alloys are light, but are soft and can be corroded, and stainless steel is often deemed too heavy for its application strength.

There is one type of metal, however, that may reverse this trend because nothing else can provide such high strength, light weight and extreme durability in a small footprint that also needs to deliver reliability and performance. The team at Ti64, based in Austin, Texas, specializes in working with this unique metal: titanium.

For decades titanium had been considered too exotic for general use due its rarity and fabulous expense, and for good reason: it alone delivers superior yield, tensile and fatigue strength that in alloy Ti-6Al-4V (an alloy that has six per cent aluminum and four per cent vanadium, referred to as Grade 5) is up to 200 per cent greater than 316 stainless and yet 45 per cent lighter.

Compared with 6061 aluminum, it is 35 per cent heavier but has twice the strength-to-weight ratio. In the west, during the Cold War, only military contractors with budgets in the billions could afford to use this amazing material, and hence its place in metals mythology.  Read on.