Flow Forming of Materials for Aerostructures

Academic Institution: University of Strathclyde

Academic Supervisor: Dr Alastair Conway

Industry Partner: Boeing

PhD Student: Kyle Nelson

Start Date: 21st October 2019


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.

The intention of this project is to enable the adoption of flow forming either by Boeing, or by a supply chain partner, for the production of aerospace components.