The £995,000 project, which began at the Cranfield University Welding Engineering and Laser Processing Centre in January 2014, is looking at the industrial potential of RAWFEED, Rolling Assisted Wire Feed Direct Deposition for Production of High Value Aerospace Components. The ALM process would reduce waste in the manufacture of titanium components from the current 80-90% to 30-35%, and increase production speed 50 fold 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 allowed to cool and is then rolled to enhance the material’s properties. This process is repeated until the required 3D shape is completed.
Managed by Airbus and supported by £630,000 support from Innovate UK (Technology Strategy Board), the research is looking to validate a cost model and define the machine architecture and specification to exploit the industrial potential of this emerging technology.
Adrian Addison, a Senior Research Fellow, who is managing Cranfield University’s RAWFEED project said: “As a leader in the field of Wire Deposition, we are using a large friction stir welding machine from a previous TSB funded project as the test bed for RAWFEED. This large gantry machine is capable of providing the forces and motion control required for the cold rolling requirements of the process.”
Delcam provides the high quality control software for the project over a wide range of machine tool and robotic platforms. The University of Bath’s Metrology Department will develop a measuring system that will help control and quality assure the process.
Curtis Carson, Head of Research & Technology – Industrial Strategy and System at sat Airbus commented: “Airbus currently procures £250m of these components every year, so the savings potential in terms of waste and production efficiency are enormous. We are proud to be associated with this cutting edge technology project, which is a continuation of the work to date on additive layer manufacturing, and confirms its potential for industrial scale application. RAWFEED could dramatically transform the way high value aerospace components are manufactured, as part of lean and efficient UK industry of the future. We, and our partners, are very grateful for the support of the Technology Strategy Board, which is continuing to join us in investing in innovation in the UK aerospace industry.”
Titanium is prized by companies looking to save weight in products as it is 45% lighter than steel while retaining the same levels of strength and similar in weight to aluminum but more than twice as strong.