GKN Aerospace to develop titanium powder for additive manufacturing

GKN Aerospace engineers at work at the Filton engineering centre.
GKN Aerospace engineers at work at the Filton engineering centre - image courtesy of GKN Aerospace.

First–tier supplier to the global aviation industry, GKN Aerospace, is set to lead a research team to develop titanium powder specifically formulated for additive manufacturing (AM) of aerospace components.

The TiPOW (Titanium Powder for net shape component manufacture) is a three-year, $4.74m programme backed by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute and innovation agency Innovate UK.

The TiPOW program will develop techniques and equipment that will produce the Titanium Powder consistently in quantity and a lower price than current material.

Consortium partners for TiPOW include UK companies Phoenix Scientific Industries, Metalysis and the University of Leeds.

The TiPOW program will see the partners investigate developing titanium alloys and powders with the characteristics that are specifically suited to AM, with the aim of replacing current powders and alloys that have not been specifically developed for AM processes.

The consortium partners will also define the production methods that will produce AM designed materials, and explore effective re-use and recycling of titanium material.

TIPOW is a major element in GKN Aersopace’s AM research and development initiative, running alongside another GKN led programme, Horizon (AM), which aims to take a number of promising AM techniques through to viable production processes.

In addition to leading TiPOW, GKN Aerospace has formed a joint technology development partnership with AM specialist Arcam AB to develop and industrialise a promising new additive process – electron beam melting (EBM).

The process involves metal components being built up, layer-by-layer, using a metal powder that is melted by an electron beam, which produces very precise, complex small to medium sized components.

Discussing the planned developments, GKN Aerospace senior vice president Engineering & Technology, Russ Dunn, said: “To date research into AM has focused largely on evolving the processes we will require to enter full scale production but if these processes are to make a significant breakthrough, the quality, repeatability and cost of the material we use will be critical.

“Working with our industrial and academic partners in the TiPOW programme and leveraging expertise from across GKN, we will begin the process of addressing this issue.”