Project to investigate hybrid approach to titanium manufacturing

Shropshire-based SDE Technology is leading a project to develop a new hybrid superplastic forming process that would enable it to expand into the aerospace market.

Manufacturing with this new approach uses new tooling which enables a much reduced process time
Manufacturing with this new approach uses new tooling which enables a much reduced process time - SDE Technology

Superplastic forming is a near net shape manufacturing method for producing thin-sheet metallic components and can be used to create complex-shaped titanium parts used by the aerospace sector.

The new hybrid technique is estimated to shorten the forming cycle time by over 50 per cent and cut manufacturing costs by as much as 25 per cent compared with traditional superplastic forming. Manufacturing with this new approach uses new tooling that reduces process time.

The project forms part of the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP) and is supported by the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) within the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) Group. Boeing and Timet UK are supporting the project with technical and business activities.

In a statement, Evgenia Yakushina, forming team lead at AFRC, said: “So far, the research has demonstrated huge potential with important parallels between the new hybrid method and the traditional approach already evident.”

AFRC has previously investigated the hybrid technique, but the latest collaboration explores how it could be scaled up for the aerospace sector.


At the end of the 18-month research project the team aims to prove that complex-shaped titanium components can be manufactured to the same specification, tolerances and quality compared to traditional superplastic forming.

Further funding has also been secured to evaluate the carbon footprint of the new process, which could be cut because of shortened heating and forming times, plus using lower temperatures of around 800°C.

In addition, when exposed to high temperatures during superplastic forming, an oxide layer – the alpha case - is formed on titanium components which requires powerful acids to remove. The new approach uses less heat and reduces the layer thickness and associated time spent to remove it.

Richard Homden, CEO of SDE Technology, said: “Hot forming was not previously our area of expertise, but with the technical support and knowledge base from the AFRC we can see it becoming a core element of our business plans moving forward. We’re especially excited by the opportunity to become part of the supply chain for aircraft and provide Boeing with UK-manufactured components.”

The project is being funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme through NATEP