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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/Y024893/1
Title: Towards Sustainable Superplastic Forming: An ITP Aero/Strathclyde Prosperity Partnership
Principal Investigator: Wynne, Professor BP
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
ITP Aero TLM Laser
Department: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 January 2024 Ends: 31 December 2026 Value (£): 261,913
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant Materials Processing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Jul 2023 EPSRC Interview panel A - Prosperity Partnership early-stage collaborations Announced
28 Jun 2023 Prosperity Partnerships: Early Stage Collaborations Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This project has been co-developed by the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) at the University of Strathclyde and ITP Aero to minimise energy use and material waste and enhance productivity throughout the lifecycle of the aerospace titanium superplastic forming process.

Superplastic Forming (SPF) is an advanced sheet metal forming process for producing large, complex, thin-walled, near net shaped components which are difficult to make via traditional forming processes from hard-to-form materials such as titanium alloys. The SPF manufacturing window reduces the need for joining and assembly of multiple parts and their associated costs. It can produce hollow and therefore lightweight components, making it particularly attractive to the aerospace sector where it is used to make a variety of components ranging from critical parts such as fan blades in jet engines through to complex heat exchangers and aircraft body structures. Use of SPF is limited by the necessarily slow strain rates increasing cycle times and a high capital and production costs because of the high temperature and degree of control required.

Achieving a reduction in the forming temperature without compromising the dimensional accuracy or performance of the formed component will:

- Directly reduce the energy consumption and therefore the carbon footprint and cost.

- Reduce the formation of a hard, brittle, oxygen rich layer (so-called alpha case) in the formed component leading to the feasibility of using less chemically intense methods or mechanical methods for their removal.

- Lead to an increased number of process cycles before dies need to be cleaned and the use of less expensive tooling materials, leading to enhanced productivity.

This project combines state-of-the-art research with a clear route for immediate impact in industry. It will deliver a predictive tool for identifying the lowest temperature for successful SPF across the ITP superplastic product range. It will be capable of predicting microstructure evolution, damage initiation and alpha-case formation during SPF based on experimental data. Additionally, the model will be able to predict the process parameters necessary for the SPF of industrial scale parts.

ITP Aero, as a major player in the global aeronautical industry, is committed to decarbonising the industry, and is therefore working on solutions that will make flying more environmentally friendly. It does so by investing in the development of its own technology, to design and manufacture aeronautical engines and components, through four strategic lines: sustainability, advanced products, Industry 4.0 and digitalisation. As part of this commitment to net zero carbon emissions, in 2021, ITP Aero joined the UN's "Race to Zero" campaign through the "Business Ambition to 1.5oC" programme, committing to be a net zero carbon company by 2050.

With a strong focus on reducing the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes and enhancing the green credentials, the proposed project will make a significant impact in reducing energy consumption and is therefore aligning extremely well with the current national and global sustainability priorities. The project outcomes will be beneficial for a large sector (i.e. metal sector) which has large commercial growth potential with significant reduction of environmental impacts and hence is a positive step towards the Government's Net Zero, Paris Agreement, and Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy commitments.

Key Findings
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.strath.ac.uk