Thursday, March 23, 2017

News: Europe’s biggest aerospace castings facility on stream in Rotherham

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A castings facility is now operational at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham as part of a major £15m investment that will enable the UK to compete on a global scale, producing some of the biggest titanium aerospace castings in the world.

Construction of the furnace for the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Castings Group was completed last year and in the past few weeks the first tests or "hot commissioning" as it is known, have been completed successfully.

The furnace is capable of melting the 1,000kg of Titanium required to make a 500kg casting and has three interchangeable bodies. It can produce components with a finished weight ranging upwards from 60kg. It is part of a £7m, 13,000 sq ft extension of existing facilities.

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 facility is one of only a handful of furnaces that exist globally that are capable of casting near net shape aerospace components this big. Several leading UK businesses have already expressed their interests in utilising the titanium castings capability, including: Rolls-Royce, Airbus and GKN Aerospace.

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AMRC Castings is conducting initial paper and pilot studies to explicitly identify the risks and value streams associated with casting large-scale near-net shape components in titanium.

This research, aims to refine and enhance the casting process, reassuring engineers that casting can create lower "buy-to-fly" ratios for large-scale aerospace components; whilst maintaining the performance expectations when compared to their forged counterparts.

The outcomes of the project, backed by the UK's Aerospace Technology Institute; innovation agency, Innovate UK; and High Value Manufacturing Catapult, not only provide a benefit to the aerospace industry, but the spillover of the technology also has significant value for other industries. This has already been demonstrated in the nuclear sector, delivering substantial cost reductions, which could be worth up £150m for Sellafield.
Mark D'Souza-Mathew, Research and Development Manager at AMRC Castings, said: "AMRC Castings has over 15 years of experience in casting titanium and we are now aiming to assist companies considering a transfer of manufacturing from forged to cast for the production of large-scale near-net shape components.

"The cost savings with near-net shape castings are huge, with efficiencies in wastage and time-savings on the machining and finishing processes. Buy-to-fly ratios are improved from 5:1 with typical forged components down to 1.5:1 via the cast route."

AMRC website

Images: AMRC


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