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24 April 2017

£2.6m TiFab programme predicts big material savings

A £2.6 million research project designed to develop cost-effective titanium alloy structural airframe parts is nearing completion.

The three-year TiFab programme, which has been backed by Innovate UK, has studied more than 170 aircraft components to assess their suitability for an advanced joining process which could offer annual raw material savings of around £9 million.

Consortium members CAV Advanced Technologies, KUKA, Ten Solutions and The Welding Institute have predicted that manufacturers could save more than 200 tonnes of titanium a year if they chose linear friction welding to bond parts instead of machining from solid billets.

The project has been designed to show how near net shape manufacture can boost productivity by using tailored blanks to produce lightweight titanium alloy parts, with the main aim being to develop an industrial scale demonstrator tooling system and components.

Says Martin Wood, project leader: "Currently, forging and extrusions are the only tailored blank solutions suited to primary airframe structure components where material physical properties must be used to the maximum in order to minimise weight.

“With the support of several OEMs, the project team has been able to examine a vast number of candidate parts, create design solutions for tailored blanks and establish weld process parameters.

"We've accomplished a 100% success rate in producing tailored blank solutions which also delivered at least 30% in material savings. It's a remarkable achievement especially as we didn't know what parts would be supplied by the OEMs.”

The final stages of the project are now underway with the demonstrator testing programme almost complete.

Adam Offord

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