Group Sponsored Projects (GSPs), the TWI work programme where a number of organisations research areas of mutual interest, are celebrating 50 years of success leading to major industrial advances and enhancements to codes and standards.
The concept of this type of research was to meet the common need of a number of companies and to provide a focused solution to a problem. Originally developed by Arthur Smith, Contracts Manager of the British Welding Research Association (forerunner of TWI), the first project started in July 1963 titled 'Hot tearing in the weld heat-affected zone of ferritic steels' and was supported by Davy and United Engineering Co Ltd, the English Steel Corporation Ltd and the Steel Company of Wales Ltd. A year later, the first record of the term 'a group of sponsors' appeared with the launch of a project entitled 'An investigation into problems associated with the welding of cast austenitic steels'.
GSPs, now called Joint Industry Projects (JIPs), have played an important role in stimulating the development and demonstration of new technical advances and capabilities, including:
- corrosion resistance of duplex stainless steel weldments (1991)/Cathodic protection of duplex stainless steel (2001). These have been key to the current widespread acceptance of duplex steels and improvement of standards in respect of ferrite content and hardness criteria
- fatigue performance of girth welded tubular connections (completed 1994). This has underpinned much of the subsequent work on deep-water risers
- effect of plate thickness on fatigue performance of fillet welds (1996). This was the first practical demonstration of the use of fracture mechanics, which predicted the thickness effect validated in this project, and lead to subsequent revision of design codes
- development of the friction stir welding technique for joining of aluminium (1997). The technique is now widely accepted in many sectors as the process of choice for joining of aluminium alloys
- structural significance of HAZ fracture toughness (1998). This key work provided the basis for much of the more recent fracture mechanics-based analysis and prediction techniques for welds
- fatigue performance of corrosion resistant steel catenary risers (2004). This laid the foundation for the widespread application of these materials in harsh environments
- definition of sour service limits for 316L and other CRAs (2010). This has led to incorporation in an international standard extending the application limits for 316L.
In the early years, the main driver for projects was the then fledgling North Sea oil and gas sector, and TWI played a major role in solving a number of the materials and structural issues that arose from operating in this difficult environment. In later times, the GSP programme expanded, to serve both the oil and gas sector worldwide and support a diverse range of other sectors, including power generation, aerospace, marine, automotive and sensors.
Today, TWI continues to offer its programme of JIPs, with around 20 projects active at any given time, in addition to offering Members the opportunity to access the results of recently completed projects through a 'buy-back' arrangement. Current hot topics include:
- the performance of materials in sour service
- performance and integrity of flexibles
- hydrogen embrittlement, surfacing
- mooring chains and clad/lined pipe.