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FEATURES

CONSTRUCTION STARTS ON EUROPE’S BIGGEST FACILITY FOR PRODUCING AEROSPACE CASTINGS Work has started on a unique facility, designed to enable UK companies to break into global markets for large-scale titanium aerospace engine and structural components weighing up to 500kg. The initiative is spearheaded by AMRC Castings and backed by Aerospace Technology Initiative (ATI) and Catapult funding. AMRC Castings is part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). It develops new castings technologies and provides design and manufacturing consultancy services. The organisation has built up extensive expertise in manufacturing smaller titanium castings and licensed its technology to one company, enabling it to produce titanium castings with a poured weight in excess of 300kg, demonstrating the scalability of the technology. Now, AMRC Castings itself is investing in a new Retech Consumable Electrode Casting Furnace, which will be the biggest furnace for casting titanium aerospace components in Western Europe. In the past, only the United States is believed to have had the capability to cast near net shape aerospace components weighing up to 500kg.

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“We are aiming to create a skills base that will enable UK companies to reap the rewards of carrying out a process that is very, very challenging,” says AMRC Castings’ Richard Gould. “It takes years to develop the skills and techniques to produce titanium castings. There are relatively few players in the market, who are very protective of their capabilities. “Any UK company wanting to break into the market would have to develop the know-how themselves, but we aim to build up the know-how for the benefit of the UK advanced manufacturing and aerospace industries.

AMRC Castings’ new furnace uses Vacuum Arc Remelting (VAR) technology. It will strike an arc between a cooled copper crucible and an electrode of titanium with a certified purity, which will gradually melt. While the ISM method uses cheaper raw material and achieves higher super heat – the temperature to which the metal is raised above its melting point – the VAR method is more suitable for larger volumes, uses less power per kilo melted, has a faster turnaround and has lower maintenance costs because it uses a single piece crucible. AMRC Castings’ furnace will have three interchangeable bodies, allowing it to produce castings from 125kg to 500kg – which, at the top end, means it has to be able to melt 1000kg of titanium.

AMRC Castings already operates two Induction Skull Melting (ISM) furnaces, which can produce castings weighing up to 30kg and 90kg respectively. ISM furnaces use water cooled segmented copper crucibles to melt preanalysed titanium in a vacuum, avoiding the extreme reaction that would occur if the metal was melted in a conventional refractory lined furnace or in the air.

That means it will be able to make castings that are up to two metres in diameter and 2.5 metres long – large enough for an aero engine intercase. “There are a number of ways of making aero engine casings – such as complex fabrications or heavily machined parts

AMRC with Boeing Quarterly Journal Q4 2015

The AMRC with Boeing Quarterly Journal  

The Quarterly Journal is the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing's magazine. It features all of the latest development...

The AMRC with Boeing Quarterly Journal  

The Quarterly Journal is the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing's magazine. It features all of the latest development...

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