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Flow Forming of Materials for Aerostructures

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, December 30, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Are you looking to gain direct industrial experience with Boeing, whilst developing your specialist research area of interest?

Flow forming is a manufacturing technique whereby a hollow metal blank (pre-from) is mounted onto a rotating mandrel and the material is made to flow axially along the mandrel by the action of one or more rollers. The process has numerous known advantages including reduced material usage and lower cost in comparison to alternative manufacturing routes such as machining, extrusion and deep drawing.

However, adoption of flow forming by the aerospace industry is limited, primarily due to lack on knowledge of how aerospace grade materials respond in the process and applicability for complex geometries and critical components.

Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defence, space and security systems, and service provider of aftermarket support. This near net shape manufacturing technique, if adopted by Boeing, and/or their supply chain, could allow for the production of dimensionally accurate near net shaped hollow components at a much lower cost and reduced lead time. Such shaped components are used in landing gear, hydraulic reservoirs and actuator systems. Flow forming could provide an alternative manufacturing process for these critical structural components which currently have a long lead-time, poor material utilisation (buy to fly ratio) and require extensive machining to achieve the final shape.

This PhD study will focus on generating a detailed understanding of key aspects of flow forming; the suitability of various aerospace grade materials for flow forming, identification of component features suitable for manufacture by flow forming, geometries that can be achieved using these materials during forming, the formability limits and the characterisation of parts produced by flow forming.

CNC-based flow forming is a manufacturing technology popular in countries, such as China, America and throughout Europe; it can be used in a number of sectors including nuclear, oil and gas and medical instruments amongst others, but notably not so much particularly in relation to aerospace. Flow forming sees the incremental reduction of the wall thickness of a cylindrical preform, stretching and extruding it out through the application of forming rollers which flow the material along a mandrel. It’s a highly controlled process that allows for the creation of long cylinder components with varying wall thicknesses and complex geometries.

Presently within aerospace manufacturing, there is an opportunity to use flow forming to manufacture components such as control rods, hydraulic cylinders and hollow tubular sections. Significant benefits can also be achieved through adoption of the process to produce critical, high value components such as engine shafts and landing gear components, of which the majority are manufactured from solid forged billets. However, adoption of flow forming by the aerospace industry is limited, primarily due to lack on detailed understanding on how aerospace grade materials respond to the process, and the applicability of the technique for complex geometries and critical components.

This PhD will address several key areas of knowledge on flow forming, which are not currently available and thereby pose a barrier to the adoption of flow forming as a manufacturing process for aerospace manufacturers:

- The study will assess and demonstrate which aerospace grade materials are suitable for flow forming.
- The study will characterise the geometric features and aerospace part geometries which are suitable for flow forming.
- Optimum starting stock of materials for flow forming. This could be in order to achieve the required deformation and final microstructure,
but must also consider cost implications and the current product form that particular alloys are available in.
- Geometries that can be achieved with the identified aerospace grade materials during flow forming, defining the formability limits. This
could include the use of computer modelling.
- Develop and implement in process monitoring techniques and the implementation of industry 4 in flow forming and demonstrating how
this can be used to negate the use of extensive testing post forming.
- Characterisation of parts produced by flow forming in terms of mechanical properties, microstructural and residual stress. It will also
consider heat treatments that will be required post forming. Then comparison to alternative more traditional manufacturing methods.
- Economic cost analysis of flow forming compared to parts produced by alternative, more traditional manufacturing methods.

Funding Notes

Applications are welcome from all who possess or are about to obtain a first class or 2.1 BEng (Hons), MEng or MSc degree, or equivalent EU/International qualification, in a relevant discipline.

Applications from Home, Rest of UK and EU students will receive funding of the home fee and stipend.

International Students are welcome to apply but should be aware of the additional funding requirements and will have to provide evidence that they can pay the difference in fees of circa £16k per annum.

Please email Dr Dorothy Evans at , and attach your most up-to-date cv.

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