Ti-Stainless and Colored Stainless Steels

Ti-Stainless is a stainless steel sheet metal with with titanium alloy in its coating. There are several methods to achieve color on stainless steel. From the chemical bath process of Interference Stainless Steel to electroplating with tinting agents. Ti-Stainless is one of the most effective methods to achieve a unique tone or color on stainless is through titanium and other alloys applied to the surface of the stainless steel.

In its raw sheet form, titanium is an expensive and difficult material to machine and fabricate. It has low ductility. This means that it doesn't want to bend, and that it will typically revert to its form. This is why the titanium-nickel alloy is used as a "memory-metal" for products like eyeglasses. On the other hand, this also means that titanium will take more time to machine when in sheet form.

This is where Ti-Stainless has distinct advantages over other raw titanium sheet. Ti-Stainless, also known as titanium-coated stainless steel or generally as PVD stainless steel, is an more economical solution to those desiring a custom color with the longevity of titanium and stainless steel. Titanium-coated stainless steel can come in heavy gauge sheets because it is a thin layer of titanium chemically bonded with a thicker layer of stainless steel. Stainless steel coated with titanium may increase its scratch and corrosion resistance, making its durability superior to many other metal options. This durable titanium-coating makes it a high-quality option for colored metal systems.

Photo of the Nathan and Fannye Shafran Planetarium
Photo of the Nathan and Fannye Shafran Planetarium
Copper-toned surface of the Ti-Stainless steel surface remains unchanged.
Copper-toned surface of the Ti-Stainless steel surface remains unchanged.

Titanium coatings applied via the deposition process create vivid colors. The colors are interference colors and thus have an enhanced reflectance. Interference colors are created from the interplay of the light wave with two closely positioned surfaces. As they reflect back to the viewer's eye, a portion of each wave interacts. The interaction, known as light interference, either reinforces a portion of the wavelength or opposes a portion of the wavelength, canceling it out. The result is color.

Colors obtained from the application of vapor deposition are very stable. The titanium coating is hard and abrasion-resistant. Many tool steels used to pierce metal are coated with a thick titanium nitride. This characteristic gold coating provides a superior surface, with improved hardness and wear resistance. The gold color in this instance is not an interference color but the color of the alloy created by the combination of titanium and nitrogen. The colors used for decorative purposes are created by thinner depositions. 

Manufacturing Ti-Stainless and Colored Stainless Steels

Ti-Stainless steel is achieved by physical vapor deposition (PVD). Vapor deposition uses ion implantation, bombarding a heated metal surface in a vacuum with the ions of another metal. A thin surface film of the ionized metal is deposited, and results in a bonded metal coating stronger and more protective than powder-coating, electroplating, or anodization.

This technique was first developed in the 1980's as part of research towards repairing the Statue of Liberty in time for the 1986 centennial celebration. The goal was to deposit a sulfur copper compound on a raw copper sheet — a forced patina on copper. This technique was further developed to achieve a wide-range of metal bondings, including PVD (Ti-Coated) stainless steel.

To specify any variety of colored stainless steels, Contact Zahner

Works featuring Ti-Stainless™