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DESIGN IDEAS


 1 tonne capacity copper crucible and melting chamber door, below left, and titanium caster, below, showing (top to bottom) the electrode delivery and power supply system, melting and casting chambers


EUROPE’S BIGGEST AEROSPACE CASTINGS FACILITY NEARS COMPLETION


A newplant capable of producing some of the biggest titaniumaerospace castings in theworld is nearing completion at AMRC Castings’ facilities on the outskirts of Sheffield, England. AMRC Castings’ newfurnace is part of a


major investment and R&D programme, designed to enable UK companies to break into globalmarkets for large-scale titanium aerospace engine and structural components. In the past, only the USA is believed to have had the capability to cast near-net-shape aerospace components weighing up to 500kg. “We plan to create aworld class titanium


casting capability in the UK, developing the skills base necessary to enable companies to reap the rewards of carrying out a process that is very, very challenging,” says AMRC Castings’ Richard Gould. Two large scale power supply units have


been installed to deliver the energy required by the organisation’s newRetech Consumable Electrode Casting Furnace. The furnace is capable ofmelting the 1,000kg of titaniumrequired tomake a 500kg casting and has three interchangeable bodies,which give it the versatility to produce componentswith a


finishedweight ranging upwards from60kg. Part of the University of Sheffield


AdvancedManufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), AMRC Castings has extensive expertise inmanufacturing smaller titanium castings and its technology has been used to produce titaniumcastingswith a poured weight in excess of 300kg, demonstrating its scalability. Closed loop cooling systems that prevent


the furnace bodies themselves frommelting are being installed, alongwith hydraulic and pneumatic systems,which carry out a number of functions, including removing air fromthe furnace and casting chambers – essentialwhen dealingwithmolten titanium,which reacts violentlywith oxygen. The systems are also used to rotate the


furnace body to pourmolten titaniuminto a ceramicmould in the casting chamber below,which incorporates a turntable that can spin themould at up to 300 revolutions aminute to create a high quality centrifugal casting. A newplant is being installed tomake


ceramicmould shells up to 2min diameter and 2.5mlong. These canweighmore than 2.5 tonnes and are large enough to produce the largest variants of aero engine inter-


cases up to 500kg, and other structural aerospace components. Furnace construction is due to finish in


time for training and cold commissioning to start this year andwill be followed by hot commissioning. First testmelts are expected in December, depending onwhen permission is given to energise the power supplies. Initial castswill be poured into a static


metalmould before trials begin using static ceramicmoulds fromthe newshelling plant. Staffwill then start building up the experience needed to operate the centrifugal casting systemat full speed. In addition to the newfurnace and


shelling plant, AMRC Castings has expanded its capacity for producing large scale dimensionally accurate replica patterns. The organisation has acquired an SLA 3D printer that canmake components for replica patterns that are up to 650 x 750 x 550mm fromphotosensitive epoxy resin and a bespoke CMS Poseidon 5 axis CNCmachine, which canmake single piece pattern components up to 2.6 x 4.0 x 2.0mfrom polystyrene. It has also invested in a Teubertmoulding


machine tomake expanded polystyrene patterns usingmetal tooling for longer production runs and a Pacific Kiln Furnace large enough to fire the ceramicmoulds its newshelling plant can produce. The programme is backed by the UK’s


Aerospace Technology Initiative (ATI); its innovation agency, Innovate UK; and High ValueManufacturing Catapult funding and will help to ensure the UK retains its place as the second-largest national aerospace industry in theworld and the largest in Europe.


December 2016 /// Environmental Engineering /// 7


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