A consortium including The University of Sheffield’s STAR group has been successful in obtaining government funding from Innovate UK for a collaborative research and development project to use titanium in automotive engine components. The project’s title is “FAST STEP3”, which stands for Field Assisted Sintering Technology for Swarf Titanium to Engine Parts in 3 steps. Project website: faststep3.org.uk
The aims of the FAST STEP 3 project are to
- Achieve lightweighting for automotive engines in order to lower emissions including CO2, NOx and particulate matter, initially at low volume, but it can move into higher volume applications when there is increasing confidence with the product and manufacturing processes.
- Provide growth opportunities for the supply chain, not only within the automotive sector, but also in the wider advanced manufacturing sectors of offshore, rail, aerospace, non-auto engines and defence.
- Enable the metal-forming industry to stay abreast of new technology in alternative metals and use world-leading materials research to assist in halting the decline of the industry within the UK.
FAST STEP 3 involves three processes to produce components; with steps 1 and 2 collectively termed FAST-forge. Firstly, titanium alloy swarf will be used as a feedstock for the FAST process to produce a fully dense and shaped preform billet. Secondly, a one-step hot forging process produces a near net shape component. Thirdly, final machining produces a component that is net shape with the high strength and good fatigue life typically required within an automotive engine. The process will produce titanium at 20% of the cost of current titanium billet, and with minimal waste compared to the 70% waste typically generated from current processes.
The project will manufacture and functionally bench test four components of increasing complexity from both a manufacturing and performance perspective.
The FAST STEP 3 consortium is led by Bentley Motors Ltd, and also comprises Force Technology Ltd, the Northern Automotive Alliance, The University of Sheffield, Transition International Ltd, and W.H. Tildesley Ltd. The FAST-forge process developed by the Sheffield Titanium Alloy Research (STAR) group at The University of Sheffield’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering has seen several demonstration projects through the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and the Niche Vehicle Network. FAST STEP 3 is the first project that will develop a UK supply chain for the material.
Titanium alloy swarf feedstock will be provided by Transition International and will undergo the FAST process at The University of Sheffield. Initially, the University will undertake the process on its small-scale laboratory machine, but later in the project components will be produced from a new 250 tonne machine that will be available at the new Royce Discovery Centre, part of The Henry Royce Institute at The University of Sheffield. The products will then be hot forged by W.H. Tildesley, followed by Force Technology Ltd controlling the machining and finishing processes, and undertaking testing to enable the product to be supplied to a vehicle manufacturer. The Northern Automotive Alliance (NAA) is providing project management, dissemination and exploitation support for all partners.
More information on the project can be obtained by contacting the NAA