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UK SME Leads Hybrid Manufacturing Breakthrough for Aerospace Industry

by Anna

A pioneering hybrid manufacturing method is poised to revolutionize aerospace manufacturing, offering increased efficiency and capability for key components. Spearheaded by Shropshire-based SME, SDE Technology, renowned for lightweight engineering, the initiative aims to propel the UK’s aerospace sector to new heights.

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The project, part of the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP), receives support from the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) within the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) Group. Industry giants Boeing and Timet UK collaborate on the venture, contributing technical and business expertise.

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Central to the innovation is a novel superplastic forming process, poised to transform the production of thin-sheet metallic components, particularly titanium parts crucial for aerospace applications. Unlike conventional methods, the new hybrid technique promises to slash forming cycle times by over 50% and reduce manufacturing costs by up to 25%.

Evgenia Yakushina, forming team lead at the AFRC, underscores the project’s potential to revolutionize aerospace manufacturing. With extensive expertise in material science and superplastic forming, the AFRC team is well-equipped to drive innovation in the sector.

The research, funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme through NATEP, aims to validate the hybrid technique’s viability for industrial-scale aerospace production. At its core is the objective to demonstrate that complex-shaped titanium components can be manufactured to precise specifications, tolerances, and quality levels comparable to traditional methods.

Moreover, the project endeavors to evaluate the environmental impact of the new process, highlighting potential reductions in carbon footprint owing to shortened heating and forming times, alongside lower operating temperatures.

Richard Homden, CEO of SDE Technology, lauds the collaborative effort and envisions the project’s transformative potential for both the company and the broader aerospace sector. By leveraging technical support from AFRC, SDE Technology aims to solidify its position in the aerospace supply chain, offering Boeing and other global manufacturers UK-manufactured components.

David Milliken, technical lead for forming and forging at Boeing, expresses enthusiasm for the project’s role in advancing aerospace manufacturing. Similarly, Nick Humphreys, senior R&D engineer at Timet UK, underscores the significance of collaborative research in addressing customer needs and driving innovation in the industry.

As the project progresses, stakeholders remain optimistic about its capacity to reshape aerospace manufacturing, heralding a new era of efficiency and capability in the sector.

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