ALM process could slash cost of titanium aircraft parts

A new additive layer manufacturing (ALM) process is being developed which could reduce the costs and waste associated with producing complex titanium alloy components for aircraft.

RAWFEED, which stands for Rolling Assisted Wire Feed Direct Deposition for Production of High Value Aerospace Components, is being explored as part of a £995,000 project between Cranfield University, Airbus, Delcam and the University of Bath.

The collaborators say the process could reduce waste from the current 80-90% to 30-35%, and increase production speed by 50x compared to components manufactured using conventional methods.

The RAWFEED process uses a welding torch to deposit a continuous bead of material on a titanium baseplate, creating the first layer of the component.

The layer is then allowed to cool before being rolled. This process is repeated until the required 3D shape is completed.

Cranfield is supplying a large friction stir welding machine for the project, which is capable of providing the forces and motion control required for the cold rolling requirements of the process.

Delcam will provide the control software for the project, while the University of Bath's Metrology Department will develop a measuring system that will help control and quality assure the process.

"We are proud to be associated with this cutting edge technology project," said Airbus' Curtis Carson. "RAWFEED could dramatically transform the way high value aerospace components are manufactured, as part of lean and efficient UK industry of the future."

Laura Hopperton

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