Monday, April 16, 2018

News: Researchers working with gamma titanium for aerospace

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Research work is continuing in the region on the use of gamma titanium aluminides in manufacturing which could have a big impact on the aerospace sector.

Securing funding via the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme, the £6m MMTech project is developing new ways of working with the advanced material with the lead partner being the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing.

With a base 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.

The project is one of a number developing lighter materials for component parts used in aerospace, aiming to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 production.

Gamma titanium aluminides (γ-TiA) are promising lightweight metal alloys recognised due to their low density, light weight and high strength at elevated temperatures. But manufacturing components from γ-TiA alloys poses significant challenges.

Rosemary Gault from the University of Sheffield, said: "Gamma titanium aluminides are used in industry today, but there is not much take-up because they are very hard to work with and brittle at room temperature, making them an expensive choice. The aim of MMTech is to lower the cost of manufacturing with γ-TiAl, both by reducing the amount of raw material used and by reducing the number of parts that are scrapped due to production flaws."

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Components made of γ-TiAl weigh about half as much as parts made from nickel-based alloys, while maintaining high specific stiffness and strength. Manufacturers are interested in using it for components such as engine turbine blades and other parts exposed to high temperatures.

The research consortium for MMTech includes two local SMEs – Rotherham-based precision engineer Advanced Manufacturing (Sheffield) Ltd, and Sheffield technology development specialist Teks Sarl Ltd – as well as industry partners from France, Italy and Spain.

Members of the consortium are implementing rapid near-net deposition processes to produce components that are close to the desired size and shape, requiring a minimal amount of finishing. This approach reduces material waste but requires careful selection of raw materials.

To address the issue, the partners are developing high-energy ball-milled powders as the raw intermetallic input material. These powders are not only cheaper than other raw forms of γ-TiAl, but their production is being standardised within the project to eliminate variations between batches that can require manufacturing machines to be recalibrated at additional cost.

Gault added: "If we can make gamma titanium aluminides an attractive option for aerospace components, it will give companies a competitive advantage as parts will be lighter, with good performance at high temperatures. As gamma titanium is lighter, plane weight would be reduced and fuel and CO2 savings would be achieved.

"The project results will drive future research and consultancy projects with industry, creating opportunities for wider adoption of γ-TiAl in manufacturing for the aviation sector."

Partners have finalised the manufacturing route for the project demonstrators and several of the Italian industrial partners are now planning to apply the innovations in their production lines: MBN Nanomaterialia will commercialise the new powders for use on a range of manufacturing machines, while PRIMA will begin marketing new machine components and FIDIA plans to offer a machine tool that has been optimised for machining γ-TiAl materials.

MMTech website

Images: MMTech

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