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Cradle of titanium goes from strength to strength

2024-03-29 14:12:30

China Daily

A view of Baoti Group's titanium and titanium alloy production line in Baoji, Shaanxi province. [Photo/China Daily]

From spacecraft and submersibles to tableware and badminton rackets, most products made from titanium and titanium alloys come from one place in China — Baoji in Shaanxi province, a city also known as the "cradle of the titanium industry".

Titanium production and processing volumes account for about 65 percent of the national and 33 percent of the global total, respectively, in this city in Northwest China.

It is also ranked first in the world in terms of the size of its titanium industrial cluster.

According to Handi Research Institute, there are around 900 titanium and titanium alloy manufacturing enterprises in China, and the top three provinces in terms of the number of such enterprises are Shaanxi, Guangdong and Jiangsu.

Driven by industrial chain leader Baoti Group, there are over 600 titanium and titanium alloy processing and trading enterprises in Baoji, producing more than 300 varieties and over 5,000 specifications of titanium products, which are widely used in aviation, aerospace, navigation, new energy, chemicals and healthcare, and exported to more than 70 countries and regions around the world.

The titanium and new materials industry cluster in Baoji has been included in the national strategic emerging industry cluster development project, and has also been selected as a national characteristic industry cluster for small and medium-sized enterprises.

The reason for the high-quality development of the titanium industry in the city can be attributed to leading enterprises, complementary advantages of SMEs, and the government's favorable policies.

As the largest titanium company in Baoji, Baoti Group has led in setting up over 110 industry standards, accounting for over 90 percent of the standards in total. The company has the most complete titanium production industrial chain, responsible for more than 8,000 national-level new material trial production tasks.

"We have built a complete industrial chain integrating sponge titanium preparation, smelting, processing, deep processing and equipment manufacturing, making China the fourth country in the world to have a complete titanium industry system," said Chen Zhanqian, deputy general manager of Baoti Group.

To further develop the titanium industry in Baoji, the city has been encouraging private enterprises to actively participate in the mixed ownership reform of State-owned enterprises, integrate advantageous resources, and expand enterprise scale.

In July 2023 alone, Baoti Precision Forging, funded by a listed company under Baoti Group and a private enterprise, completed a titanium forging processing volume of 2,384 metric tons, achieving a processing output value of 19.42 million yuan ($2.69 million), setting a record.

Titanium is an important structural metal with abundant reserves in the earth's crust. It has excellent properties, high specific strength, low density, excellent biocompatibility, and is corrosion resistant. It is known as a "strategic metal", "third metal", and "marine metal", and is a highly promising structural material.

Titanium alloy has high strength, good corrosion resistance and high heat resistance, and is widely used in the aerospace, automotive, nuclear, chemical and petrochemical industries, as well as in dentistry and medical restoration.

Baoti Group's titanium products are displayed at its factory in Baoji. [Photo/China Daily]

Small, but effective

In Baoji, SMEs are also giving full play to their advantages in this sector.

For example, Baoji High Tech Xinglong Co Ltd has supplied special titanium material for 300 C919 aircraft, Baoji Kehui Titanium Co Ltd has successfully developed the largest titanium alloy forging in Asia, and Baoji Xinnuo New Metal has become the largest medical-use titanium alloy material manufacturing company in China.

Currently, there are over 600 enterprises alongside the titanium industrial chain in Baoji, including 12 national-level "little giant" enterprises, three provincial-level chain owners, four provincial-level manufacturing champion enterprises, and 10 provincial-level listed reserve enterprises.

There are more than 100 smelting furnaces for titanium and titanium alloys, more than 20 sets of fast forging machines with a capacity of 1,000 to 10,000 tons, and more than 10 large plate and strip machines with widths ranging between 1 and 3.3 meters.

The city's rolling and processing equipment for pipes, rods and wires, production and processing capabilities for titanium metal composites, and production capabilities for titanium precision castings have all ranked among the top in the industry.

Han Mingfang, head of the bureau of economic cooperation in Baoji, said: "With 64 billion yuan of production value in 2023, the titanium industry in Baoji has outstanding advantages in production equipment, process technology, research and development innovation capabilities, inspection and testing methods, and brand awareness.

"Currently, there are over 1,000 R&D employees in the titanium industry in Baoji, and the city has several scientific research institutions including Baoti Research Institute, and Northwest Institute for Nonferrous Metal Research. We have a strong industrial foundation, effective policy measures, an excellent business environment, great gathering of industrial talent, and precise investment attraction."

She noted that Baoji has placed the titanium and titanium alloy industrial chain at the top of the city's 13 major industrial chains, with key leaders of the government serving as supervisors of the industrial chain.

The city has issued a series of guiding policies, set up an industry development fund of 10 billion yuan, and established titanium trading centers and research institutes, to promote the clustered, high-quality development of the industry.

In 2022, the Baoji municipal government issued an action plan to promote the high-quality development of the titanium and titanium alloy industry in the city.

According to the action plan, by the end of 2025, Baoji should be capable of producing 100,000 tons of titanium a year, and the annual production value of the industry cluster should surpass 100 billion yuan. There should be at least five listed titanium companies, and 100 high-level talented people introduced to the city.

Currently, among the major titanium projects in Baoji, the technical renovation and expansion project of the Baoti industrial park, which is worth 1.76 billion yuan, as well as the group's precision machining project, with an investment of 520 million yuan, are all progressing smoothly.

Qu Fang, an investment consultant at Wanlian Securities, said: "Although there is a complete titanium industrial chain in China, there is a lack of high-end products; the downstream of the industrial chain has not been fully tapped into, and the participation of the capital market is insufficient."

Zheng Lei, chief economist at cloud services provider Smydigtech, said that the future development of the titanium industry will be more diversified, innovative and high-end. Major application fields include aerospace, national defense and military, new energy, medical and health, ocean engineering and shipbuilding, and new material research and development.

"In the future, based on scientific innovation, the titanium industry in Baoji aims to accelerate the collaborative development of industry, academia, research and application, promoting digitalization and industrial standardization, and expanding toward the mid to high-end value chain," Han from the bureau of economic cooperation in Baoji said.