RBSL to lead titanium recycling project for defence applications

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Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) has been awarded a contract to investigate ways of using recycled titanium in defence equipment.

Swarf (Image: Sheffield University)

The Affordable Titanium for Defence project was awarded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and is worth up to £3.5m over four years.

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Titanium has a similar strength and is approximately half the weight of steel. The USAF’s A-10 aircraft is notable because it contains around 540kg of titanium armour, but the element is expensive and steel tends to prevail in military equipment. The RBSL-led team will develop a solution that recycles titanium swarf and turns it into a reusable product at reduced cost and effort.

RBSL and its partners will explore which type of waste material is best to use, how best to process the material, and what material properties work best for defence equipment such as combat vehicle armour.  The project will also involve testing to assess ballistic, fatigue, and corrosion performance if used in-service across land, maritime, or air equipment.

The team includes BAE Systems’ Air sector, which uses titanium across a range of components.  BAE Systems’ Maritime and Land sector will advise on potential applications, whilst MBDA will provide missile systems support. Transition International will carry out reprocessing trials and advise on reprocessing techniques.

Academic partners include Sheffield University and the Advanced Forming Research Centre at Strathclyde University.

Through the first phase of the contract, small-scale components will be produced and tested to establish how successfully recycled titanium can be incorporated into defence equipment, before the second phase of the project is launched.

In a statement, RBSL’s Technology Programmes Manager, Nick Brown, said: “This programme allows RBSL to collaborate with partners across academia and defence for the Affordable Titanium project and to deliver something truly innovative for soldiers which also helps keep them safe.