Operation of the EBM machine to produce a solid metal part from powderOne of the hottest areas of research in the additive manufacturing field is metal materials. With focus especially on creating usable parts for industries like aerospace, investment into research is certainly going to pay off big time once end-use components are able to be reliably and consistently produced.

The United Kingdom has just taken a major step forward in this area, with a three-year collaborative research agreement signed this week. The £3.1 million research effort — backed by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and Innovate UK — is headed by GKN Aerospace, as well as its GKN Powder Metallurgy division, along with consortium partners Phoenix Scientific Industries, Metalysis, and the University of Leeds.

The collaboration, called the Titanium Powder for net-shaped component manufacture, or TiPOW, is intended to develop a titanium powder optimized for use in additive manufacturing, with consistent results that can be reproduced in large quantities, all with the ultimate aim of cutting costs from current technology and material availability. For end-use capabilities in the aerospace industry, materials must meet exacting standards.

ati-logo1“The UK is already a world leader in aerospace technology and the Aerospace Technology Institute is delighted to be investing in this highly creative project,” said Gary Elliott, CEO of ATI. “TIPOW will give us a better understanding and insight into improving airplane performance and will undoubtedly deliver more technological advances to the industry. This programme highlights the capabilities of the UK aerospace, promotes healthy competition and will lay the groundwork for even more innovation.”

Working together to develop titanium alloys and powders, the consortium partners in TiPOW will work to create not only materials best suited for additive manufacturing, but also the potential for material re-use and titanium recycling, as well as looking into potential applications for the recycled materials.

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“To date research into AM has focused largely on evolving the processes we will require to enter full scale production but if these processes are to make a significant breakthrough, the quality, repeatability and cost of the material we use will be critical,” explained GKN Aerospace’s Senior Vice President, Engineering & Technology, Russ Dunn. “Working with our industrial and academic partners in the TiPOW programme and leveraging expertise from across GKN, we will begin the process of addressing this issue.” He elaborated, “We believe AM has the potential to revolutionise the design and manufacture of aircraft, unlocking innovations in low drag, high-performance wing designs and lighter, even more efficient engine systems that will dramatically improve airframe performance and reduce noxious emissions and noise.”

gkn aerospaceGKN Aerospace is additionally leading an ATI-supported program called Horizon (AM), through which five development centers in both Europe and North America are dedicated to developing viable manufacturing techniques using AM methods.

This collaborative effort puts the UK ahead in the race to successful additive manufacturing methods in the production of end-use aerospace components. Discuss this new partnership in the UK Collaborative Research in Metal Powders for Aerospace AM forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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