Monday, July 11, 2016

News: AMRC unveil advanced steel foundry

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The first custom-built steel foundry to be commissioned in the UK since the early 1980's has been unveiled on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham.

AMRC Castings, part of the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing, has invested £600,000 to allow engineers to conduct innovative research and product development projects in collaboration with its industrial partners for the benefit of industry sectors in which castings are, or could be used in the future.

Castings Technology International (Cti) was acquired by the AMRC in 2014. Since then, it has been split into two organisations; AMRC Castings, which focuses on research and development, and Cti Ltd, which carries out commercial work.

AMRC Castings develops new castings technologies and provides design and manufacturing consultancy services for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors.

The new advanced steels casting facility consists of two Inductotherm air melting induction furnaces, with a combined 2.8 tonne melt capacity, able to produce cast parts with a finished weight of up to 1,300kg.

Ryan Longden, operations manager at AMRC Castings, said: "Keeping the UK at the forefront of steel castings technology is the only way to ensure the capability survives. It's our aim to support steel foundries at home in the UK and around the world and castings users wanting to push the boundaries of current castings processes.

"Using the new facility alongside our MEGAshell Process allows us to put our technical expertise to full use and conduct pioneering research for the energy sector into producing cast steel components that are more cost and time effective to manufacture."

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MEGAshell uses expendable polystyrene patterns which can be machined out of a single block or built up from machined polystyrene parts. Replacing traditional sand moulds, castings can be manufactured to the integrity normally associated with the lost wax process, but of a size and weight far beyond the capability of a process with a pedigree of manufacturing civil aero-engine blades and vanes.

Combined with the new advanced steels casting facility, AMRC Castings is the only UK organisation able to produce a ceramic shell big enough for such research projects, producing specialist cast components from material grade duplex 4A steel in a one-piece ceramic mould.

The new foundry facility will also enable the advance of research into the composition of materials. Development programmes such as these will provide a knowledge bank of process and materials data, leading to the development of new material grades and optimised material chemistries for advanced castings.

Ryan added: "The new AMRC Castings advanced steels casting facility allows us to develop and demonstrate innovative new castings techniques, further enhancing the integrity and improving the material properties of castings.

"This kind of research will help the AMRC build up the technical knowledge and expertise needed to keep UK castings technology and manufacturers competitive within global markets."

A £7m government grant as part of the Aerospace Growth Partnership is funding a new facility at Cti. The 13,000 sq ft extension will provide accommodation for new process equipment including a Titanium VAR Skull Melting Furnace, with associated infrastructure and external works.

AMRC website

Images: AMRC

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