In a Q&A session, Aeromet International’s director of Advanced Material Technology, Mike Bond delivers the latest update on the development and commercialisation of the company’s A20X aluminium-copper alloy.
Today’s metallurgists strive to discover the right mixture of ingredients to produce an alloy with the mechanical properties coveted by today’s aerospace designers. Aeromet International says it may well have struck gold with the development of its new A20X aluminium-copper family of alloy technologies for high strength airframe and aero engine components.
Q) What is the latest update on the progress of A20X and its maturity level, the launch of your new website, and logo showing the global network of casting licensees?
It’s been a great 12 months for A20X with new parts entering production for civil aircraft, defence and space applications, several new foundry licensees signed up, new research projects for A20X powder and a new brand and website launched in early 2018.
There are now 12 licensed foundries around the world including Aeromet’s sites. This includes licensees in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. There is interest from several other foundries looking to access the technology.
Separately, Poeton Industries, our surface treatments partner is offering its optimised surface treatment process for A20X in Europe and through the General Magnaplate Corporation for the North American market, further expanding global A20X supply chain capabilities.
Q) What are the latest developments concerning your A20X powder for additive manufacturing (AM)?
In the last 12 months we have announced two research projects involving A20X powder. We have launched a NATEP-backed project with Renishaw, Rolls-Royce and PSI to further optimise the alloy for aerospace additive manufacturing – this will enhance our proposition and make A20X and even better option for high-strength additive manufacturing. We are also working with Renishaw to optimise A20X processing parameters and techniques when used with Renishaw AM systems.
Q) How much of a major growth area is AM for Aeromet going forward?
The A20X alloy is uniquely placed as a cost-effective, high-strength aluminium option for additive manufacturing. We have seen a huge demand from customers around the world who are attracted to A20X for its strength and thermal performance envelope. As aluminium AM becomes a mainstream option for component manufacture, we expect this demand to continue to grow and become increasingly important to Aeromet.
Q) Any update on the progress of your Boeing relationship?
Since last year’s announcement about new contracts from Boeing, our relationship has continued to go from strength to strength. Watch this space!
Q) What kinds of aerospace parts are suitable for A20X and AM powders?
The biggest factors driving adoption of A20X are strength and thermal performance. A20X is the strongest aluminium casting alloy, so by using A20X, aerospace components can be designed that are lighter as less metal is required to perform the same function. Machined, fabricated and bulky parts are prime candidates for conversion to A20X castings.
A20X also has superior thermal performance compared to other aluminium alloys. This makes it ideal for higher-temperature operating environments, like aircraft engines where other aluminium alloys would not be a viable option.
Q) What kind of impact has the recent orders and acquisition news had on the company?
Aeromet secured several new contracts in 2017 as part of our growth strategy. We have expanded our footprint by taking on additional space in Worcester and Rochester and we are investing in new equipment and capabilities across our sites.
In March 2018, we completed the acquisition of Stone Foundries, a casting supplier based in Charlton, UK. This has brought further growth and is a great development for our customers and employees.
Q) How do you know that A20X is the strongest aluminium casting alloy on the market?
No other commercially available cast aluminium alloy matches A20X (A205) properties, hence our statement that this is the world’s strongest aluminium casting alloy. This status is confirmed by the MMPDS design allowable data used by aerospace engineers worldwide.
Q) Do you believe that A20X will provide a good alternative to titanium for airframe OEMs?
A20X aluminium is a viable alternative to titanium in some niche applications where previously no aluminium alloy could provide the strength or thermal performance required, leaving titanium as the only viable alloy choice.
Q) Has A20X solved all the old problems of overcoming thin wall casting issues, shrinkage, solidification, porosity and cracking issues?
A20X is highly castable alloy and is now in production in 12 foundries around the world. The strength, fatigue and thermal properties of the alloy open up new possibilities for aerospace designers and engineers.
Q) How proud do the recent A20X achievements make the company feel?
The development and commercialisation of A20X is an immense achievement that everyone at Aeromet is very proud of. It took many years, lots of investment and significant hard work to get to where we are today, with a fully-approved and patented alloy, a global network of licensees, supply chain partners, and major aerospace customers for both A20X castings and A20X powder.