Additive manufacturing the focus of £13m R&D project

GKN Aerospace is leading a consortium of UK companies and universities to explore how additive manufacturing (AM) can be used to cut the weight of aircraft parts by 50%.

The £13million Horizon project involves Renishaw, Delcam and the Universities of Sheffield and Warwick. It is being backed by the UK's Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).

The partners will work together to create viable new production processes that unlock innovations in low drag, high performance wing designs and lighter, even more efficient engine systems. The ultimate aim is to enable reductions in aircraft fuel consumption and emissions.

The programme will focus initially on using AM techniques to create near net shape parts which require very little machining. This is expected to dramatically improve the 'buy to fly' ratio of the part by reducing the considerable cost in time and material wastage associated with the conventional machining of metal forgings.

With material wastage as high as 90% for some parts, a significant reduction here will also provide major environmental benefits.

Rich Oldfield, technical director of GKN Aerospace, commented: "AM incorporates a range of hugely promising manufacturing technologies that the UK aerospace sector must fully understand and exploit if it is to retain its position as the largest national aerospace industry outside the USA.

"This strong consortium has the expertise and understanding to continue the process of industrialising these technologies for use in both current programme updates and next generation aircraft."

Laura Hopperton

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