TWI has launched a £1.5 million collaborative project that will accelerate research in laser welding of titanium and help secure the UK’s place at the forefront of aerospace technology innovation.
The OLIVER (optimised laser welding implementation via enabling research) project will see TWI working with six other UK-based organisations on a programme of research that has recently been awarded more than £1.1 million funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.
Led by Hutchinson AeroTech, OLIVER will develop the laser welding of titanium to bring it to industrial maturity for the aerospace sector. Alongside TWI and Hutchinson, the project consortium comprises the Northern Ireland Technology Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, IPG Photonics and, as end beneficiaries of the project along with Hutchinson, Leonardo Helicopters (previously AgustaWestland) and TISICS.
The partners will work together to develop and demonstrate industrial welding of structural titanium to ensure that the UK continues to lead the advancement of aerospace technology. Other potential applications include thin-sheet titanium assemblies and novel components employing silicon carbide fibre-reinforced titanium composites, offering 30–70% weight savings.
Mark Hutchinson, managing director of Hutchinson AeroTech, commented: 'I’m delighted to be able to announce, as project lead, that we have secured funding to develop and enhance the process of laser welding. Along with two OEMs and other key partners this is a fantastic opportunity to exploit this technology in a commercial market.
'Eventually, this new capability will replace more traditional assembly techniques on existing and newly designed aerospace parts. Our aim at completion of this project is to be in a prime position to use new developments in robotic laser welding from the project to implement cost savings firstly within the aerospace sector and subsequently to a wider range of industries in the future.
'The significant benefits that this project will offer include a reduction in manual labour, lead times, component weight and energy consumption. This will have an exceptional impact on the future of laser welding in the UK aerospace sector.'
John Lughlin of Innovate UK said: 'The OLIVER project will further develop knowledge in laser welding titanium and its application to structural aerospace assemblies, and at the same time exploit this knowledge by developing UK manufacturing capability both within the UK supply chain and OEMs.
'Laser welding is emerging as the sector’s joining process of choice since it can produce low distortion welds of good quality and properties at significantly faster speeds than other welding processes. We are delighted that this funding will allow this consortium to form and with their expertise we will add real value to the future of the aerospace sector.'
For further information about this project and TWI’s role within it, please contact us.