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Flying FIRST CLASS

Diecasting Society members visit world-class Aeromet International Ltd facility in Worcester (UK)

As a leading supplier of components for the aerospace and defence sectors, Aeromet has built a first-class reputation for driving technology forward in the sector and highlighting the way in which castings can satisfy customer’s complex and lightweight assembly ready component demands.

Operating on three sites in the UK – Worcester, Sittingbourne and Rochester – plus the newly acquired Stone Foundries in London, the company manufactures precision cast parts using sand, investment and the SOPHIAÒ high-property casting processes.

In 2017 the Worcester site completed a floorspace expansion of an additional 30 per cent to provide capacity for ongoing growth plans.

Host for the DCS visit was technical director Bill Stott, who explained how Aeromet was particularly proud to be the first company in the UK (third in Europe) to achieve the NADCAP standard for measurement and inspection. Aeromet also has a rich heritage in training its staff for long-term career progression in the company as witnessed by the fact that managing director of the group Simon Holliday is a former apprentice at the company, as are several of the senior staff. “Our people are everything,” Stott said. They currently have three apprentices who even at this early stage in their careers play key roles in the company and with SIG (share in growth) involvement the skilled workforce has also been trained to a high level.

The buoyant Worcester facility produces assembly ready parts of which two thirds are fully finished. Amongst the company’s blue-chip, tier-1, customers are Boeing, Airbus, BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, with components produced for the aerospace giants including: winglets, slat cans, APU ducts, fuel connectors, wing doors, flight deck control columns, drains masts and heat exchangers. As a production foundry, Aeromet supports high rate production programmes for various aircraft initiatives, such as the 737, A320 and CFM56.

The company has particular expertise in converting fabrications, along with machined from solid billet parts, to castings and Aeromet’s development of the world’s strongest cast aluminium alloy A20XÔ, which provides at least 30 per cent higher properties than standard alloys, offers a unique, high strength capability to promote the conversion to castings for a much wider range of parts.

Bill Stott gave a presentation that detailed various case studies including the Embraer Phenom 300 winglet that was previously produced as a number of fabrications, and now converted into a single piece casting (1,498mm x 800mm x 75mm), giving a 50 per cent cost saving along with, the all-important, weight saving. “Weight is critical,” he told attendees. “Especially in certain parts of the plane and our challenge is always to remove weight – this is what the aerospace industry demands.”

A particular success has been the company’s ability to convert slat cans from fabrications to castings. Slat cans house actuation systems for moveable surfaces on aircraft wings. Historically these parts were fabricated or welded together – Aeromet now casts these parts for several major aircraft OEMs.

Speaking about A20XÔ, Stott explained that there are now 15 licences for it around the world and that it is an excellent option for structural, safety critical parts of aeroplanes. “There are a lot of opportunities for castings in this market,” he said. “You can die cast with it and we have gravity diecasting on site where we undertake billet production to manufacture weld wire and slab manufacture to make sheet and test bars. It doesn’t behave like a normal alloy and gives excellent results.”

The A205 alloy is now atomised to produce high strength aluminium alloy for the additive manufacturing market, which is growing at a phenomenal rate. The powder produced by Aeromet has properties that are equivalent to the highest aluminium powder available to date. Aeromet is leading a NATEP programme which includes Rolls Royce, Renishaw and PSI, to further optimise all the parameters required in additive manufacture production.

The tour of the facility enabled attendees to gain an insight into the various complexities of the wax assembly and robotic operated ceramic shell facilities as well as being given access to the foundry, heat treatment, finishing, inspection and despatch areas.

Thanking Bill Stott for an enlightening, enthusiastic and candid visit, DCS council member John Swift (Alucast) said: “We brought two of our apprentices and it’s been fascinating for all of us. What an excellent visit.”