Aero parts research on show at open day

An open day has been held to mark the completion of the largest-ever research project backed by Innovate UK for developing low-cost titanium alloy structural parts. Tifab event web

The event in Halesowen demonstrated the results of the £2.6m, three-year TiFab programme which brought together consortium members CAV Advanced Technologies, KUKA, Ten Solutions and The Welding Institute.

With input from several OEMs, the project has examined more than 170 aircraft components and explored the use of linear friction welding to join lightweight alloy parts.

The study's successful outcomes have included the development of a unique, patented, cost-effective tooling system for tailored blank production and simultaneous welding of linear friction welded parts.

As well as predicting annual raw material savings of around £9m, the project has also estimated that manufacturers could save more than 200 tonnes of titanium a year.

Visitors to the event were able to see a linear friction welding process demonstration featuring KUKA's LR50 machine. Consortium members also gave a series of presentations on the programme.

Open day showcases novel aero parts research

An open day to showcase the largest-ever research project backed by Innovate UK for developing cost-effective titanium alloy structural airframe parts takes place in the Midlands on June 29. KUKA will host the event at its Halesowen facility to highlight the results of the three-year TiFab programme which predicts annual raw material savings of around £9 million.

The open day programme includes a series of presentations by TiFab Consortium members and a linear friction welding process demonstration featuring the Thompson LR50 machine. Consortium members KUKA, CAV Advanced Technologies, Ten Solutions and The Welding Institute have been exploring the use of the linear friction welding method to bond lightweight titanium alloy parts.

With support from several OEMs, they have studied more than 170 aircraft components as part of the £2.6m project and identified that manufacturers could save more than 200 tonnes of titanium a year.

"We're keen to share the exciting results of the TiFab project and show how we've accomplished a 100% success rate in producting tailored blank solutions and at least 30% in material savings," explains Sanjiv Mann, senior programme manager at KUKA.

Elena's high-flying role in aircraft parts study

As the International Women in Engineering Day approaches (June 23), a Midlands engineer is playing a key role in creating the next generation of aircraft components. Elena Izvolensky, linear friction welding process engineer at KUKA Systems UK, is using her expertise to help develop an advanced manufacturing system for joining structural airframe parts.

She is a member of the TiFab project team which is studying ways in which aero companies can make major savings on component raw material costs by adopting innovative production technologies. The three-year, £2.6m programme, which comprises KUKA, CAV Advanced Technologies, Ten Solutions and The Welding Institute, is the largest-ever research assignment backed by Innovate UK for developing cost-effective titanium alloy airframe parts. Tifab Elena web

Multi-lingual Elena, who has degrees in mechanical design from the University of Technology of Compiègne and design of rotating machines from Cranfield University, is involved in a range of tasks such as performing weld trials, inspecting components and liaising with management, design and production team members. She joined Halesowen-based KUKA in 2012 as a design engineer and moved to its linear friction welding department in 2015 where she works on a variety of projects for major OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers. 

"I feel very lucky to work in engineering as it was always my ambition to follow a scientific path. From my studies at university to my current role, I've always had plenty of support to help me succeed," said Elena, whose sister is studying to be a civil engineer in France. Elena's final role in the project will involve the completion of an industrial scale demonstrator tooling system and components.

TiFab project predicts huge material savings

The largest-ever research project backed by Innovate UK for developing cost-effective titanium alloy structural airframe parts is nearing completion. The three-year TiFab programme has studied more than 170 aircraft components to assess their suitability for an advanced joining process which could offer annual raw material savings of around £9m.

TiFab consortium members CAV Advanced Technologies, KUKA, Ten Solutions and The Welding Institute predict that manufacturers could save over 200 tonnes of titanium a year if they chose linear friction welding to bond parts instead of machining from solid billets.  

The £2.6m project has been designed to show how near net shape manufacture can boost productivity by using tailored blanks to produce lightweight titanium alloy parts. Its main aim is to develop an industrial scale demonstrator tooling system and components.  Tifab web 250

Linear friction welding was preferred to other welding or deposition techniques because of its speed and ability to achieve near parent material properties, explained project leader Martin Wood. "Currently, forging and extrusions are the only tailored blank solutions suited to primary airframe structure components where material physical properties must be used to the maximum in order to minimise weight," he added.

With the support of several OEMs, the project team has been able to examine a vast number of candidate parts, create design solutions for tailored blanks and establish weld process parameters. "We've accomplished a 100% success rate in producing tailored blank solutions which also delivered at least 30% in material savings. It's a remarkable achievement especially as we didn't know what parts would be supplied by the OEMs," said Martin.

As well as designing and developing a manufacturing cell and in-process quality monitoring system, the programme has also involved a fitness-for-purpose exercise and the identification of suitable demonstrator parts. The final stages of the project are underway with the demonstrator testing programme almost complete.