3D Technology
3D Technology

Cranfield University, Airbus Group, Delcam, and the University of Bath have partnered as part of a major project looking at the use of Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM, more commonly known as 3-D printing) to revolutionise the production of titanium alloy aircraft components.

The £995,000 project, which began at the Cranfield University Welding Engineering and Laser Processing Centre in January 2014, is looking at the industrial potential of RAWFEED, Rolling Assisted Wire Feed Direct Deposition for Production of High Value Aerospace Components. The ALM process would reduce waste in the manufacture of titanium components from the current 80-90% to 30-35%, and increase production speed 50 fold compared to components manufactured using conventional methods.

The RAWFEED process uses a welding torch to deposit a continuous bead of material on a titanium baseplate, creating the first layer of the component. The layer is allowed to cool and is then rolled to enhance the material’s properties. This process is repeated until the required 3D shape is completed.

Managed by Airbus and supported by £630,000 support from Innovate UK (Technology Strategy Board), the research is looking to validate a cost model and define the machine architecture and specification to exploit the industrial potential of this emerging technology.

Adrian Addison, a Senior Research Fellow, who is managing Cranfield University’s RAWFEED project said: “As a leader in the field of Wire Deposition, we are using a large friction stir welding machine from a previous TSB funded project as the test bed for RAWFEED. This large gantry machine is capable of providing the forces and motion control required for the cold rolling requirements of the process.”

Delcam provides the high quality control software for the project over a wide range of machine tool and robotic platforms. The University of Bath’s Metrology Department will develop a measuring system that will help control and quality assure the process.

Curtis Carson, Head of Research & Technology - Industrial Strategy and System at Airbus commented: “Airbus currently procures £250m of these components every year, so the savings potential in terms of waste and production efficiency are enormous. We are proud to be associated with this cutting edge technology project, which is a continuation of the work to date on additive layer manufacturing, and confirms its potential for industrial scale application. RAWFEED could dramatically transform the way high value aerospace components are manufactured, as part of lean and efficient UK industry of the future. We, and our partners, are very grateful for the support of the Technology Strategy Board, which is continuing to join us in investing in innovation in the UK aerospace industry.”

Notes for editors

About Airbus Group
Airbus Group is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2013, the Group – comprising Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space and Airbus Helicopters – generated revenues of € 57.6 billion and employed a workforce of around 139,000.

About Innovate UK (Technology Strategy Board)
This project is co-funded by Innovate UK (The Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency).  Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.  Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

Manufacturing Doctoral Training Centre

This higher research degree is associated with our Manufacturing Doctoral Training Centre (DTC). The Manufacturing DTC encompasses ten major research themes that benefit from the clear synergy between engineering materials, manufacturing technology and manufacturing management, supported by a strong and fundamental engineering and science base. This provides a powerful combination of multidisciplinary skills that ensures both industrial relevance and academic rigor that builds on state-of-the-art industrial scale research and development facilities that differentiate the Cranfield activity from other universities.

A tailored programme of seminars and events alongside the generic core skills training programme, provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities with Cranfield’s wider research community.