The TiFab project is exploring the use of linear friction welding (LFW) to manufacture aerospace structures in titanium alloys for the airframe sector. The consortium of partners has identified a series of technical objectives that include:
- Defining and optimizing the process parameters and procedures for the identification of suitable components for LFW manufacture
- Creating design solutions for tailored blanks and assessing the likely cost of tailored blank fabrication with comparisons to existing methods of part production
- Developing a modular tooling system to enable economic application of LFW tailored blanks
- Assessing LFW joint basic performance, identifying suitable welding parameters and developing a process monitoring system to comply with product quality assurance requirements
- Developing a production cell concept to enable the commercial application of TiFab concept
- Identifying appropriate testing methods, evaluating weld performance and manufacturing demonstrator components and tooling
Due to limited global manufacturing capacity for titanium components and the use of inefficient processing routes, the buy-to-fly ratio (material utilisation) of such parts can be as poor as 20:1 and is rarely as low as 5:1 (this is symptomatic of parts being machined from oversized ingots, forgings or extrusions). There is a clear need for an improved manufacturing route that reduces costs and achieves greater titanium utilisation.
The TiFab project aims to develop and demonstrate a manufacturing route with buy-to-fly ratios approaching 2:1, up to approx. 50% less materials waste and overall reduction in manufacturing cost per part of up to 60%. Preliminary investigations estimate that up to 50% of current Ti aero structures will be suitable for the innovative TiFab approach.