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Advanced casting technology for aerospace structural components


Project description


Aluminium casting can deliver sustainable, complex, near-net-shape components, but insufficient process information leads to high variance, requiring the application of casting factors, and preventing their use in critical aerospace structural components.

Therefore, BCAST and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) have worked with the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) to develop a roadmap for the UK’s aluminium shape casting capabilities. Near-term (0-5 years) goals for aero-structural castings include: reducing casting variability and casting factors, improving mechanical properties and process reliability, demonstrating low buy-to-fly ratios, reducing production costs and scrap rates, demonstrating increased design freedom and advancing the use of secondary materials. Achieving these goals will deliver a premium process, making castings competitive with forgings and machined from solid components. It will reduce scrap and increase design freedom, opening up critical aerostructures markets.

Foundry2030 addresses these aerospace structural goals, and aims to demonstrate that a combination of counter-gravity casting and digital process control can deliver a premium casting process capable of manufacturing critical aero-structural components that offer up to 20% weight savings, achieve ~95% buy-to-fly ratios, and have similar property variance (<3.5% UTS, <4% yield strength) to wrought metal; with the capability to utilise secondary aluminium.

Foundry2030 will deliver the route to market for aluminium shape casting in line with the partner OEMs (Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing, DSTL, MBDA and Rolls-Royce) and Tier1s (GKN Aerospace, Spirit Aerostructures, Eaton Aerospace, Hamble Aerostructures Ltd), in collaboration with the UK casting supply chain; including Sarginsons, Aeromet and Grainger and Worrall.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Professor Shouxun Ji - Prof. Shouxun Ji is currently a Professor at Brunel University London. He has been focusing on the development of lightweight materials and structures for the automotive industry, aerospace, powered tools, and other sectors. The main activities include purpose-developed aluminium alloys and magnesium alloys with improved ductility, strength (at ambience and elevated temperatures), modulus and thermal conductivity, and the hybrid structures using different materials and different joining techniques. He is also working on new materials and structures for special applications, such as materials for explosive cords and high strength casting materials for aircraft. His works have helped industrial partners to deliver several products in massive manufacturing. Recently, he worked with world leading company to develop magnesium alloys for small engine applications, which requires improved strength and thermal conductivity at room temperature and at elevated temperatures. Prof. Ji have plenty experiences in high pressure die casting including die structure design, gating system design and optimisation, casting process and casting materials. He also worked extensively on other shaped-casting processes such as sand casting, gravity casting, low pressure die casting, semi-solid metal processing of rheo-die casting, rheo-extrusion, and rheo-twin roll casting. His previous works also included cast irons (spheroidal graphite cast iron and austempered ductile iron) and copper alloys. Prof. Ji has published more than 130 papers in the peer-reviewed scientific Journals and more than 20 international patents. He is the member of three ISO technical committee and one BSI technical committee and the editorial member of three scientific journals. He received the innovation award from CMF UK in 2017.