Thursday, October 8, 2015

News: AMRC developing new aerospace steel

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Research engineers at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing in Rotherham are working on a project to develop a new corrosion-resistant stainless steel alloy for the possible use in future landing gear components.

Leading aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, is working in partnership with Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, Carpenter Technology and The AMRC in developing the maturity of a new alloy known as "CRES" which partners hope could replace existing low-alloy carbon steels and titanium alloys for future aircraft landing gear.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham and a partner in the HVM Catapult (the government's strategic initiative that aims to revitalise the manufacturing industry), the AMRC focuses on advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors.

As part of the collaborative evaluation, nine A320 main gear components have been forged in the new steel and used for further materials development, including establishing properties of the as-manufactured materials and define the optimum industrialisation route. Furthermore, two components are being manufactured to a "final finish." In the future, the team hopes to assemble a fully CRES landing gear for in-service evaluation.

The new CRES steel, which avoids the need to use traditional cadmium and chromate coatings, offers intrinsic corrosion resistance and its strength is comparable to current steels. It could be available for less than half the price of titanium alloys.

CRES steels also improve the cost of ownership due to the reduction of in-service corrosion. Moreover, thanks to a large improvement in fracture toughness and stress corrosion cracking resistance, they are much more environmentally robust.

The work on potential new landing gear echoes previous R&D at the AMRC. When bidding for the landing gear for Boeing's new Dreamliner was opened, manufacturer Messier-Bugatti-Dowty came to the AMRC to see if it was feasible to make landing gear parts from a new grade of titanium alloy.

Boeing were looking to reduce the weight of the landing gear components whilst crucially retaining the strength and durability. Titanium was the preferred material and AMRC engineers worked with Messier-Bugatti-Dowty to help reduce the machining of the titanium 5553 components by a factor of 18, and reduce their tooling costs by 30%.

A multi year programme, backed by the Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK) began in 2012 to qualify Carpernter's CUSTOM 465 stainless steel. The new aerospace steel was mentioned at the Global Manufacturing Festival last year. Airbus joined the AMRC as a Tier One member having previously worked together on the Integrated Wing Project, a previous R&D project lead by Airbus.

A £42m investment in research led by Airbus into designing, manufacturing and assembling the commercial aircraft "Wing of the Future," is another project that researchers from the AMRC are heavily involved with.
Airbus is an aircraft manufacturing subsidiary of EADS, a European aerospace company. Based in France, the company produces approximately half of the world's jet airliners. This week it celebrated Finnair becoming the first European airline to operate the Airbus A350 XWB, where the very latest in aerodynamics, design and advanced technologies have been brought together to improve fuel efficiency, meaning that operating costs are 25% lower than its current long-range competitor.

And there's another link to Rotherham and the Advanced Manufacturing Park. The new planes are powered by the Trent XWB, the fastest-selling member of the Rolls-Royce Trent engine family, with more than 1,600 ordered prior to its entry into service.

The latest engines from Rolls-Royce contain turbine blades manufacturing in Rotherham at Rolls-Royce's Advanced Blade Casting Facility (ABCF). "Grown" in a special process which ensures that they are created from a single metal crystal to maximise their strength, these SX blades rotate at 12,500 rpm, with their tips reaching 1,200mph – twice the speed of sound. At take off each of the engine's 68 high pressure turbine blades generates around 900 horsepower per blade – the equivalent to that of a Formula One racing car.

Eric Schulz, president - Civil Large Engines at Rolls-Royce (pictured, right), said: "We are very proud to be with Finnair and Airbus today to mark another chapter in the A350 XWB story. The Trent XWB exemplifies how we take the best in technology to deliver new standards of excellence."

AMRC website
Airbus website
Rolls-Royce website

Images: Airbus

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