The Technical Jargin
Titanium is most often mined as the ore rutile or ilmenite. Titanium is rather difficult to fabricate because of its susceptibility to oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen impurities which cause the titanium to become more brittle.
Elevated temperature processing must be used under special conditions in order to avoid diffusion of these gasses into the titanium. Commercially produced titanium products are made in the following mill wrought forms: plate, tubing, sheet, wire, extrusions, and forgings. Titanium can also be cast, which must be done in a vacuum furnace because of titanium’s reactive nature.
Nearly all titanium metal used for production is an alloy. Like other pure metals, pure titanium requires the addition of alloys that performance applications demand.
What It Means To Us In Terms Of Suspension
In racing, where performance is everything, reducing weight is always a goal. The properties of titanium allow the design of a lighter spring with added travel and more resistance to set. Titanium springs are often 30 to 50% lighter than steel springs. The result is around a 2 lb. weight savings. The lower weight improves suspension dynamics and response. This reduced mass and inertia increases the natural frequency of the spring (A little more Technical Jargin).
A titanium spring is more responsive then a steel spring and helps the suspension keep the tires on the ground for better traction and handling. The substantial weight savings also improves the suspension performance by reducing the mass and inertia generated by movement of the suspension system. A lighter suspension system will have improved response and performance…Kind of like shaking a bowling ball versus shaking a balloon. This is why you have heard how important it is to reduce un-sprung weight.
Titanium has a lower torsional modulus than steel. It is in effect “more springy”. Because of this titanium springs are designed with slightly larger wire but fewer coils. The result is a spring with more available travel than a steel spring of the same free length and rate.