How To Drill Through Titanium

The very name titanium tells us that this is a very strong type of metal. Think of the titans, the titanic and other such similar things; they’re all strong and mighty (well the ship not so much, perhaps!) But in any case, titanium is favoured for its robustness but this does mean that drilling through it requires something of a knack. If you’ve been wondering how to drill through titanium, you’re about to discover the best way.

Drilling through titanium isn’t simple and one of the most important things to keep in mind is that your drill bit needs to be SHARP. It’s also not a good idea to use cheap drill bits that might break easily. Moreover, keeping the drill cool and maintaining pressure are both of the utmost importance.

Provided that you take the right approach, you should have very few problems drilling through titanium. Here’s our guide on everything you need to know!

What’s The Key To Success When Drilling Titanium?

Titanium is up to two times as strong as aluminium but is far more lightweight, being up to 60% lighter than its aluminium counterpart. Moreover, its properties make it ideal for a wide range of applications; it’s very resistant to extreme temperatures and does not corrode easily.

However, this strength also means that drilling through this type of metal can be a challenge. But it doesn’t need to be. The key to success lies in how you drill the titanium and what you use. Primarily, this means using sharp drill bits that will cut through the metal cleanly and easily and do not stand a chance of breaking. Secondly, maintaining consistent drilling pressure is a must but we will look at both of these things in more detail later on.

But there are some other considerations, so let’s take a look at these first.

The Right Length Drill Bit

While choosing the right type of drill bit is incredibly important when it comes to drilling through titanium, you’ll also need to make sure that the length is sufficient. Despite what you might think, it’s essential to make sure that the drill bit is not any longer than necessary for the job at hand.

The reason for this is that it ensures better stability of the drill which in turn means that you are able to exert that consistent pressure we talked about earlier on. In addition to this, any titanium fragments or debris will be more easily able to fall through the drill hole as you are working.

Keeping The Metal Cool

While titanium is very resistant to both high and low temperatures, it is important to make sure that, when drilling, you keep the area cool. Naturally, as you are working, heat will build up as a result of the movement and friction of the drill on the surface of the metal. Leaving this could cause damage to the drill so it’s certainly something you will want to avoid.

But don’t worry, it’s as simple as applying a coolant throughout the course of drilling. Using a steady flow while you are drilling is the best method.

Choosing The Right Drill Bit

As we mentioned earlier, selecting the right drill bit for drilling through titanium is one of the most essential considerations. It’s really no good going for a cheap imported bit as this won’t have the quality, durability or sharpness to get the job done effectively.

Instead, you’re going to want to choose a more expensive and higher quality drill bit, preferably a carbide-tipped bit as this is not only excellent for use with strong metals like titanium but these drill bits tend to have a longer life.

Since you need something very sharp, it is best to use a newer drill bit for this application. If you can use a brand new one, that’s even better. You might also wish to search for drill bits that are specifically designed for use with metals like this to get the most efficient and effective result.

It is, of course, possible to use the same drill bit for multiple holes until it becomes too dull. However, once you notice that the bit has dulled, it is of the utmost importance to replace it. Not only will using a dull tip make the drilling process much more difficult but it can also make heat build up more quickly.

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Marking Your Drilling Site

It’s tempting to go in all guns blazing and start drilling holes without any thought. While you might strike it lucky and end up with a perfect result, that’s unlikely. So, before you go anywhere near your drill, it’s a wise idea to mark exactly where you’ll make the hole.

Without doing this, your drill may begin to wander and your hole won’t end up where you intended. Start any titanium drilling projecting by marking the precise drilling location using a centre punch and a hammer. It takes very little time but could be the difference between perfection and having to start again. The small dimple you create will almost cradle the drill bit and prevent it from wandering off course.

Clamping The Metal

Don’t ever attempt to drill into a piece of titanium without first clamping it. While you might think that you’re only making one hole so holding the metal with your free hand is OK, this could end in disaster.

Without clamping, the drill bit might catch which in turn will cause the piece of titanium to spin or slip. In the worst cases, a fast-moving piece of sharp metal could cause a very deep and serious wound. It simply isn’t worth it.

Gradually Make The Hole Bigger

It can often be easier to drill through tough metals like titanium bit by bit. Most drill bits come in a variety of sizes and you may find it simpler to start with a smaller one and create a small hole before changing bits and gradually making hole bigger. Yes, it requires a little more time but you’ll end up with a more precise finish.

Safety

Whether you are working as a professional in a workshop or are a new hobbyist, safety remains one of the most important considerations when drilling titanium. For this reason, kitting yourself out with the best safety gear is a must. As a minimum, you should make sure you have the following items:

  • Safety goggles or glasses will protect the eyes from any flying pieces of debris.
  • If you prefer, you might opt for a face shield which will not only protect the eyes but all other parts of the face.
  • A dust mask or respirator will prevent you from breathing in tiny particles of metal dust which could lead to serious health conditions over time.
  • Safety gloves, preferably made from leather will stop your hands from becoming cut on the sharp edges of the metal. Moreover, they’ll prevent splinters from the small fragments that come away while you are drilling.
  • Using ear plugs will protect your hearing which is especially important if you are going to be drilling a lot of holes or working in these conditions over the long term.

A final note where safety is concerned is to always make sure that your drill is in full working order. Make it a habit to give it a quick once over before each use and that any safety features are working correctly.

Conclusion

You’ll find titanium being used for a lot of things as this is an incredibly strong metal that’s lightweight and resistant to corrosion. But many people struggle with how to drill through titanium owing to how solid it is.

Fortunately, by using the right drill bit and following some simple guidelines, you will be able to drill a neat hole in titanium with minimal effort and fuss.

How To Drill Through Titanium

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