A castings facility that can produce some of the largest titanium aerospace components in the world is now operational at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). Furnace construction for the AMRC Castings Group was completed last year, and the first tests have been successfully completed. The furnace has three interchangeable crucibles with the capacity for melting 250 kg (550 pounds), 500 kg (1,100 pounds) and 1,000 kg (2,200 pounds) of metal. AMRC Castings is conducting initial paper and pilot studies to identify the risks and value streams associated with casting large-scale near-net-shape components in titanium.

A molten mass in excess of 1,000 kg is required to make a 500-kg titanium casting. According to AMRC, only a handful of furnaces exist globally that are capable of casting near-net-shape aerospace components of this size. The furnace also allows enhanced cooling to better control the material microstructure.

AMRC Castings’ new furnace is part of a major investment and R&D program designed to enable U.K. companies to break into global markets for large-scale titanium aerospace engine and structural components. The wider goal for the AMRC is to establish the U.K.’s position as a leading supplier of this high-impact technology by developing strong business models for new operations, increasing skill levels and generating jobs.