Opportunities are opening up to radically reduce the time it takes to produce large scale, highly accurate castings with a high quality surface finish that does not need machining.
Thanks to backing from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, and the Aerospace Technology Institute, AMRC Castings has been able to significantly increase the size of replica patterns and moulds it can produce using CNC technology.
AMRC Castings is part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and is based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park at Catcliffe, near Sheffield.
The organisation develops new castings technologies and provides design and manufacturing consultancy services.
In the past, the maximum size of a single mould component AMRC Castings could make has been limited to 2600x1500x850 millimetres.
That has now been radically increased to 2600x4000x2000 millimetres, following the installation of a bespoke CMS Poseidon 5 axis CNC machine.
The specifications of the CMS Poseidon have been tailored to machining dimensionally accurate replicas from polystyrene which are coated in ceramic to create the moulds used in AMRC Castings’ Replicast® and MEGAshell® Process.
It has also been designed to machine sand moulds for AMRC Castings’ Patternless® Process , which makes mould and cores by using CNC technology to mill them out of blocks of bonded sand.
The new machine will come into its own when the biggest furnace for casting Titanium aerospace components in Western Europe is installed at AMRC Castings’ headquarters later this year.
The facility, which has also received support from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, is designed to enable UK companies to break into global markets for near net shape large-scale titanium aerospace engine and structural components weighing up to 500kg, currently exclusively dominated by the United States.
AMRC Castings’ Richard Gould said: “Any UK company wanting to break into the market would have to develop the know-how themselves, but we aim to build up the know-how for the benefit of the UK advanced manufacturing and aerospace industries.
“The new CMS Poseidon machine is very fast, while retaining a very high degree of accuracy and will be ideally suited to making moulds for marine propellers, large scale valves and other critical components for the oil and gas, renewables and wider energy markets, as well as aerospace.
“Within renewables alone, applications could include tidal energy systems that incorporate functional performance related hydraulic passageways that need to be made to tight tolerances, with an as cast working surface geometry.”
When not being used for research, the CMS Poseidon could be used to make moulds for castings producers, provide them with the knowledge transfer services they need to introduce the process themselves, or produce complete castings for users.
Richard Gould says even companies that plan to produce higher volumes of castings using traditional wooden patterns could benefit from using Patternless® moulds, produced on the CMS Poseidon to validate new manufacturing techniques.