Consortium formed to produce cheaper titanium for aerospace industry

The FASTForge project, a consortium comprising Safran Landing Systems, Metalysis, the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) and the University of Sheffield, is working to produce aerospace-grade titanium components at less than a third of the current price.

It is hoped that lower cost titanium parts will allow the metal to be used more widely, leading to lighter aircraft and reduced emissions.

Michael Ward, chief technology officer at the AFRC, said: “Cheaper titanium from the FAST-forge process will protect the UK’s position as the second-largest global aerospace manufacturer, with potential to grow our share of the market as the sector grows over the next 20 years.

“It will mean the supply chain staying and expanding in the UK with more high-value jobs as a result,” he added.

The consortium aims to produce the components in three steps from rutile sand - a mineral composed primarily of titanium dioxide (TiO2). Rutile, the most common natural form of TiO2, is found in plentiful quantities in Australia, South Africa and India.

The project will seek to develop the raw material process, establish how it can be embodied in a new UK supply chain, develop cost effective manufacturing techniques and prove the capability in a landing gear application.

Safran Landing Systems will manage the project, provide the specifications for the component, test it and assess where else the process could be applied to their products. Metalysis will create the powder titanium alloy from the rutile sand.

The AFRC and the University of Sheffield will model the manufacturing process steps and optimise the preform and forging die designs to minimise the material used in the end product.

The AFRC will also model and optimise the forging parameters and forge the final component shape. Together with Sheffield, the centre will also analyse the material properties of the intermediate and finished components to ensure they meet the stringent requirements of the landing gear application.

Sam Evans from Safran Landing Systems said: “This project has the potential to diversify the supply chain of titanium, allowing its use to continue in current products, as well as allowing its introduction into areas where it has not previously been feasible. This will provide a competitive advantage to the UK high value manufacturing and aerospace industry.”

Other industries such as rail, automotive, heavy duty construction and defence could also benefit from the results of the FASTForge project.

Tom Austin-Morgan

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