As one of the world’s foremost independent research and technology organisations, TWI supports many household names in the UK’s aerospace, defence, transport, and oil and gas industries.
Partnership promises UK aerospace advantage
Having been in the cold spray technology space for 15 years, they were keen to procure a proven high-pressure CSAM (cold spray additive manufacturing) system for their members.
So when Titomic proposed jointly applying for the ATI Programme — a £3.9 billion shared investment between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Innovate UK, and the Aerospace Technology Institute for growing civil aerospace — to fund the supply of a TKF1000 modular additive manufacturing system, TWI jumped on board.
TWI are accustomed to being at the forefront of process technologies, having invented many solutions including friction stir welding back in the 1990s, which is still widely used today.
“We’re always looking to push the boundaries of what process technology can do. And we see the Titomic system as a great opportunity to have a kind of embedded turnkey system that we can prove our technology on,” Henry says.
Certainly this will be invaluable for TWI members, the majority of whom are engineering companies seeking specialist advice, consultancy and research across materials engineering, joining, welding, structural integrity, coatings and others.
Opportunities take off
TWI know as well as anyone that when it comes to structural applications, traditional additive manufacturing methods of building components up from a melt pool don’t always cut it. Alloys can crack or become porous, and suffer from oxidation or residual stress.
Solid-state deposition like cold spray is an innovative way to tackle such metallurgical challenges. As well as opening up the possibility of multi-material builds. CSAM is easily scalable with no need for an inert gas environment or a large powder bed.
“The claimed benefits around production rates have some exciting potential for various applications and scaling things up,” Henry says.
The TKF1000 system — which is built around Titomic’s Kinetic Fusion (TKF) CSAM technology — works with a wide variety of metals to create large components in less time, lowering costs, reducing lead and downtimes, and simplifying supply chains, giving the aerospace sector a significant strategic advantage.
Based at TWI’s Cambridge headquarters, the system will enable members to join a portfolio of CSAM projects. After gauging what applications they’re most interested in, TWI will then run the equipment and conduct research on their behalf.
Henry is hopeful this will generate enough interest and prove the technology for another round of funding, so that some members will invest in the equipment themselves for manufacturing.
“If our members want to take it in-house, they have a ready-made solution they can buy off the shelf.”
This is an exciting prospect for Henry and his team: “I think it’s going to provide a real big step forward in terms of the types of offering we’re able to provide our members.”
TKF material mechanical properties
|Inconel 718 (HT1*)||977 MPa||1,145 MPa||8%|
|Inconel 718 (HT2*)||680 MPa||1,080 MPa||28%|
|SS 304L||348 MPa||645 MPa||32%|
|Invar36||371 MPa||517 MPa||26%|
|CP Titanium HDH||702 MPa||800 MPa||5.30%|
|4330 Steel (HT1*)||1,180 MPa||1,300 MPa||8%|
|4330 Steel (HT2*)||860 MPa||950 MPa||12%|
TWI members won’t be the only ones to benefit from the cutting-edge technology. It also promises to prove valuable for defence and aerospace as a whole.
“Having it in the UK, within an organisation like TWI that can work within the requirements of the sector, I think is going to be very attractive to some of the big primes based here in the UK,” Henry explains.
As part of the ATI Programme funding process, TWI and Titomic also had to demonstrate value for money for taxpayers, as well as the opportunity to grow manufacturing jobs.
While this can be a challenge when requesting a large, fully-funded capital sum without any other consulting industrial partners, both organisations worked closely together to highlight the business case for the technology in the future.
“Having access to this equipment within the UK is going to drastically speed up the adoption of this technology,” Henry believes.
“There’s a real opportunity to not only catch up, but to exceed what’s going on elsewhere.”
For Titomic too, the grant and ongoing relationship is about so much more than simply supplying a machine. It’s an opportunity to help revolutionise the aerospace and defence industries, shape industrial capability, and contribute to both UK and Australian sovereignty.
“We’re excited to see where our technology can really add value and provide a unique competitive advantage,” says Dominic Parsonson, Titomic’s Head of Sales.
TWI’s Henry Begg agrees: “We were very pleased with how it all went. Hopefully we’ll continue to work with Titomic to see the next thing that can be done with cold spray.”