Concept and Objectives:

The INMA project aims at developing an intelligent knowledge-based (KB) flexible manufacturing technology for titanium shaping that will lead to drastically reduce current aircraft development costs incurred by the fabrication of complex titanium sheet aeronautical components with a minimal environmental impact. In particular, this project aims at strengthening European aircraft industry competitiveness, by transforming the current non-flexible and cost intensive forming processes into a rapid and agile manufacturing process. This brand new process, based on asymmetric incremental sheet forming (AISF), will transform the way many titanium sheet aeronautical components that can be found mainly in the pylons, nacelles and engine areas are manufactured today. The innovative, cost-efficient and ecological forming technology to shape complex geometries in titanium that will contribute to strengthen the European aircraft industry competitiveness meeting society’s needs.

Currently, aircraft industry uses complicated and cost intensive forming processes to shape complex Ti sheet components, such as deep drawing, hot forming, super plastic forming (SPF) and hydroforming. In some cases parts are even obtained by hand working. These techniques show severe drawbacks which include high costs, long industrialisation phases and high energy consumption rates. On the contrary, main features of the innovative AISF technology to be developed will be an increased flexibility, cost reduction, minimised energy consumption and a speed up in the industrialisation phase.

The INMA Consortium is integrated by 2 end-users, 1 equipment provider, 4 research organisations, 3 universities and the EASN association. Participation of industrial partners who will directly exploit the project results will guarantee the impact of the project.

INMA Results in brief:

Simplified forming of titanium aircraft components

Titanium (Ti) is widely used in aircraft components. EU-funded scientists are developing new titanium sheet-forming technology to significantly reduce cost, time and energy consumption. Titanium combines a high strength-to-weight ratio with corrosion resistance and overall reliability. Fan blades, wing structures and landing gear components are only a few of the massive and highly stressed structural members where titanium is employed. Fabrication of complex titanium sheet components conventionally relies on expensive as well as time- and energy-consuming forming processes such as hot forming and super plastic forming using dies, or metal pieces shaped like the desired part and used to form it. Sometimes the parts are even formed by hand.

Clearly, the need exists for more efficient and eco-friendly alternatives. European scientists are developing novel titanium-shaping technology based on asymmetric incremental sheet forming (AISF) with EU funding of the ‘Innovative manufacturing of complex Ti sheet aeronautical components’ (INMA) project. AISF is a relatively new and very promising method of forming asymmetric parts from sheet metal without the need for costly dies. The shape is incrementally formed along the sheet metal using a single point tool, hence ‘dieless forming’. Any factory with computer numerical control (CNC) hardware and software, such as a CNC milling tool, can carry out AISF. The CNC machine tool uses commands extracted from computer-aided design (CAD) part specifications to form the appropriate part.

To date, the INMA consortium has explored cold forming through to production of quality parts and has formed the basis for carrying out hot forming operations. In addition, scientists have developed test criteria for parts formed with AISF. INMA’s novel ‘dieless’ titanium sheet-forming technology promises a significant decrease in industrialisation time and manufacturing cost for a given piece as well as decreased energy consumption. Completion of INMA and delivery of the technology should thus have important impact on the competitiveness of the European aerospace sector.

Public Documents

Periodic Report – INMA (Innovative manufacturing of complex Ti sheet aeronautical components)