Leading aerospace companies including Airbus and Safran Landing Systems are working with a consortium led by the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) on a new project aiming to offer a major sustainability boost, along with cost and lead time savings, across critical component manufacturing through a combination of forging, forming and additive manufacturing.
Funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and supported by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the ‘Hybrid Direct Energy Deposition (DED) Sprint’ project partners include NMIS Digital Factory, Cranfield University and the Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC), which is based at Queen’s University Belfast, along with an industry steering group of 13 companies.
The group is working to devise a new Hybrid DED process that will help overcome current challenges that manufacturers face in relation to the expensive and time-consuming process of manufacturing critical components required to operate under harsh environments.
Looking to streamline and future-proof production, the method combines the low costs and flexibility of forging, high production rates of forming and design adaptability of additive manufacturing (AM). It also includes the benefits of parallel kinematic machine (PKM) techniques, which combines the dexterity of robots with the accuracy of machine tools.
Traditionally key aerospace parts, such as those within an aircraft’s landing gear, are forged and then machined, but using Hybrid DED methodologies can reduce tooling, forging, and machining requirements. Adding features directly onto forged and formed substrates using AM leads to a more efficient manufacturing process with less materials waste – providing significant cost and sustainability benefits. This also opens up opportunities for new repair and remanufacture methods.
Although currently focused on the aerospace sector, the method will be applicable across a wide variety of industries including oil and gas, defence, space and automotive.
The first two phases of the project, led by NMIS, which is operated by the University of Strathclyde, and Cranfield University are already under way, with plans to deliver a demonstrator component later this year. The third phase, led by the NITC at Queen’s University Belfast, will focus on PKM machining, while the final proof of concept phase will compare traditional and alternative manufacturing routes.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Additive Manufacturing and Machining Lead at the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, who is PI on the project, said:
This project has real potential to deliver more efficient alternative manufacturing routes for aerospace companies, and will enable key industry drivers such as reduced embodied emissions, remanufacturing, and more resilient supply chains.
Dr Misael Pimentel, Manufacturing Engineer at the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, who is leading the project, said
The use of AM coupled with forging and PKM technologies takes a transformative approach to this process, offering the potential to reduce lead time, production costs and material waste while supporting the drive towards net zero targets and creating a production model that genuinely contributes to a circular economy.
NMIS, Cranfield University, and the NITC are working closely with the steering group to ensure that project deliverables are aligned with industry requirements, de-risking future steps such as qualification and certification of Hybrid DED components.
The Hybrid DED project is funded by the ATI, which comprises a portfolio of cutting-edge projects designed to further enhance the UK’s aerospace research and technology capabilities by encouraging collaboration between academia and industry.