UK-based Aeromet International manufactures aluminum and cast metal parts for the aerospace and defense industries. It has several prominent customers for which it supplies airframe and engine parts such as fuel system components, wing tips, doors and heat exchangers. The company is also known for developing the world’s strongest commercially available aluminum casting alloy, A20X, which is the first new aluminum alloy brought to market for the aerospace industry in over 40 years. Now Aeromet is leading a group of companies to further develop A20X for additive manufacturing.
The group has been awarded funding from the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Program (NATEP) to develop the alloy. As part of the High Strength Aluminum Powder for Additive Manufacture (HighSAP) project, Aeromet and its partners Rolls-Royce, Renishaw and PSI will work to further optimize A20X for additive manufacturing and produce a set of demonstrator parts.
NATEP, an Aerospace Growth Partnership initiative, is an industry-led program that supports UK companies in the aerospace industry developing innovative technologies.
“We are very pleased to have been awarded NATEP funding for this exciting project,” said Mike Bond, Director of Advanced Material Technology at Aeromet. “By working with our partners, we hope to further develop our powder technology and create a new option for high strength additive manufactured parts. NATEP is a great way for innovative companies to come together to develop cutting edge technologies.”
The A20X family includes the Metallic Materials Properties Development and Standardisation (MMPDS) approved A205 casting alloy and A20X powder for additive manufacturing. A20X is an aluminum-copper alloy with a highly refined microstructure and a unique solidification mechanism, giving it greater strength, fatigue and thermal characteristics than other alloys. Castings made from the alloy are already in production for high-strength, high-temperature aerospace applications, and HighSAP plans to take advantage of the alloy’s characteristics for additive manufacturing purposes.
“Rolls-Royce are excited to participate in this project and contribute to the development of this very promising new aluminium alloy,” said Paul Murray, Principal Materials Engineer at Rolls-Royce. “NATEP is a proven programme with a strong track record of supporting innovation in the UK aerospace supply chain.”
Aeromet has led two collaborative development projects through NATEP, and is actively engaged in cross-industry, collaborative R&D projects funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute. The company is also highly involved in the UK government’s industrial strategy for aerospace, known as the Aerospace Growth Partnership, which in turn is part of the Sharing in Growth program, a 2013 initiative to increase the productivity and effectiveness of the UK aerospace supply chain.
“PSI are very pleased to be a partner in this project which aligns very well with our strategy of optimising powders for additive manufacturing,” said Dr. Gordon Kerr of PSI Ltd. “PSI technology combines VIM with inert gas atomisation and this project will utilise our knowledge of processing and handling aluminium alloy powders.”
These companies will work together to develop what is already an extremely promising material into something that could prove central to increasing the use of additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry.
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