Friday, March 20, 2015

News: Plans in for £7m Cti expansion

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A planning application has been submitted for the University of Sheffield's latest expansion on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham.

A 13,000 sq ft extension to the existing Casting Technology International (Cti) facility is being planned so that it can become the only place in the UK that can produce large scale titanium castings for the next generation of aircraft.

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing is a world class centre for advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors. It acquired internationally renowned Cti and Titanium Castings (UK) Ltd, the subsidiary that manufactures castings from titanium alloys, in 2013.

Also based on the AMP, Cti is a member-based organisation with unrivalled capabilities in casting design, materials development and selection, specifications, manufacturing technologies, quality control, testing and performance.

A £7m government grant as part of the Aerospace Growth Partnership will fund the new facility at Cti which will allow companies within the aerospace industry to develop the capability to melt and manufacture precision castings in the UK instead of this work being carried out abroad.

Designed by Sheffield architects, Bond Bryan, the extension will be used to house a new large titanium furnace and workshop space for all the required ancillary operational facilities. On the western end of the existing building, the 65 ft high extension needs to be able to accommodate the furnace and crane facilities above it to transport two tonne castings around the building. The existing building is 41 ft at its highest point.

The extension will cost around £2m with the furnace set to cost around £4.5m. It will enable The AMRC to carry out the flexible, "fast make" manufacturing of large scale, one-off aerospace pieces.

The extension is 26.9% of the existing building area and will employ an additional 25 staff.
Large-scale castings are only accessible from a select few companies, with technologies existing mainly in the USA, resulting in a severely uncompetitive market, which disadvantages UK-based companies such as Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Siemens, Babcock, Alstom and BAE Systems.

The Cti investment will ensure that the UK's aerospace supply chain can develop new capabilities to produce large thin-walled titanium castings, and win a significant part of the growing global market for these components. The new facility will be able to cast large structural parts with a poured weight of up to 1,000kg.

All investment casting producers in the UK are limited in component size to 50kg - 100kg as a maximum poured weight. Large-scale ferrous alloy parts, up to two tonnes poured weight, are currently manufactured by the sand casting route, and if they could be cast using the ceramic shell investment castings on the AMP, this would minimise manufacturing costs, improve performance and reduce CO2 emissions.

The University of Sheffield bidding document for the project stated: "The intention is to take techniques and materials that Cti has proved at a research level and turn them into repeatable and robust solutions that UK companies can use to produce high value precision castings relatively quickly and economically. By doing so, it will de-risk investment and enable UK foundries (for which Cti acts as a ‘corporate research centre’) to compete with low cost economies.

"The UK metal casting industry is a key player in the global market, adding £2.6bn a year to the UK economy and employing 30,000 people in 500 companies of which the vast majority are SMEs. The project will help to protect and grow some of these small businesses by providing them with the capability to enhance the competitive position of most sectors of UK manufacturing."

The company winning the tender for the construction has yet to be announced.

AMRC website

Images: Bond Bryan / AMRC

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