One of the aims of the initial stages of the project was to engage with aircraft OEMs, identify candidate parts and assess their suitability for production using the linear friction welding (LFW) process.
A Short List Calculator was created which could quickly assess the likely material savings that near net shape manufacture could achieve without the need for a detailed design study. This effectively saved hundreds of engineering man-hours and provided a Rough Order of Magnitude assessment of material savings. The results were then summarized for down selection purposes.
More than 150 aircraft components containing hundreds of welds were assessed. The weld areas were converted to the force required to join the parts and create the tailored blank solution.
Each stage of the tailored blank manufacturing process was analysed to identify the process variables that needed to be controlled. For example, the impact of the taper angle of a water jet cut component can have on the linear friction welding components was studied and why it needed to be controlled.
Furthermore, in developing process and cost models, a full understanding of the inter dependences of all aspects of each process was required. The time taken to water jet cut a component (the sum of all of the profiles) at various cutting speeds was explored. Understanding this relationship and what the LFW process could tolerate was vitally important as it defines the quality and utilization of the water jet cutting machines required to produce a given number of tailored blank components. It also gives the base information to construct the cost model as the cost process consumables can also be directly linked to this information.
Value stream mapping
Studies have also been completed for all of the process operations in the value stream. Creating a map of the production operations and the inter dependences of the various operations enabled a picture of what a facility for producing tailored blank aircraft components might look like. It also enabled the comparison of LFW production with existing manufacturing processes.