Dr. Adam Cox was engaged in addressing new manufacturing challenges posed by advanced civil aircraft platforms like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 XWB. These challenges included the need for higher productivity in machining high-strength titanium alloys. A key approach to enhancing productivity was the optimization of machining parameters, a crucial focus for Dr. Cox's industrial sponsor, Messier-Bugatti-Dowty.
Dr. Cox's research specifically involved working with the beta metastable titanium alloy Ti-5Al-5Mo-5V-3Cr. This alloy, recently adopted for use in safety-critical components of landing gear for next-generation civil aircraft, exhibited beneficial material properties but posed challenges due to poor machinability. The project's objectives included defining, understanding, and overcoming the limitations of current machining processes with this alloy, delivering solutions for direct implementation into production. Dr. Cox's work aimed to prepare Messier-Bugatti-Dowty for the higher machining rates required to meet demand, while simultaneously improving component integrity and maintaining fatigue performance.
The research methodology included the production of small-scale machining tests to study surface integrity, subsurface microstructure, and a novel 4-point bend fatigue test to investigate the influence of machining-induced deformation. Dr. Cox applied various mechanical engineering and materials science techniques, including 5-axis finish machining, CADCAM, Finite Element Analysis (FEA), MATLAB, Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), and Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD).