The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing works to identify, research and resolve advanced manufacturing problems.

The AMRC is part of an alliance of government-backed Catapult Centres, designed to transform the UK’s capability for innovation in specific areas and help drive future economic growth.

In 2014, the AMRC was awarded ATI funding to develop the UK’s capability to produce large scale titanium aerospace parts. This funding has proven to be pivotal in developing the UK’s capabilities; previously, the United States has dominated this market and has been the only country capable of producing such large castings.

The AMRC’s new castings furnace is part of a major investment that will enable the UK to compete on a global scale, producing some of the biggest titanium aerospace castings in the world.

On announcing the funding, the then Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“The UK aerospace sector is a global success story and is key to driving the current economic recovery. This project, which we are funding through our aerospace industrial strategy, will support the development of efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft, while keeping highly-skilled manufacturing jobs here in Britain.”

MEGAshell, a ceramic shell moulding and casting process for oversized castings, enables the production of parts up 1.5×1.5×2.0m, with dimensional accuracy and surface finish comparable to investment casting. AMRC Castings is the only UK operation able to produce a ceramic shell of this size, suitable for producing specialty cast parts in stainless steel in a one-piece ceramic mould.

Unique in Europe, the new foundry will also make it possible to conduct advanced research into new material grades and optimised material chemistries for advanced castings.

AMRC Castings’ Commercial Manager, Richard Gould, said:

“We plan to create a world class Titanium casting capability in the UK developing the skills base necessary to enable companies to reap the rewards of carrying out a process that is very, very challenging”

In addition to the benefit for the aerospace industry, there is also significant value for other industries, for example the nuclear sector, delivering significant cost reductions. Being capable of producing large scale castings of this size with a superior surface finish could help to radically reduce the cost to the UK of storing nuclear waste and delivering cost savings in the region of up to 60-70%, with demand for over 30,000 units expected.