Original Date: 05/08/1995
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Superplastic Forming/Diffusion Bonding
McDonnell Douglas Aerospace (MDA)-St. Louis has successfully developed and used titanium Superplastic Forming (SPF) technology on fighter/attack aircraft. The company manufactures 180 different types of parts using the SPF single-sheet process and 13 different types of parts using the SPF/Diffusion Bonding (DB) process. SPF and SPF/DB of titanium at MDA-St. Louis has resulted in cost savings of 20% to 50% and weight reductions of 10% to 20% when compared to conventional manufacturing methods.
MDA-St. Louis has installed equipment (600-, 1000-, and 2000-ton presses) to perform SPF/DB to address manufacturing problems related to conventionally-fabricated aluminum and titanium structures. These structures contain numerous detailed parts and fasteners, and their parts with complex geometries are difficult to form accurately. Fabrication and assembly costs are high, and reproducibility and interchangeability from lot to lot represent additional difficulties. In addition, honeycomb reinforced structures generate high fabrication costs, are difficult to repair, and experience high life cycle costs.
The F-15E Builtup Low Cost Advanced Titanium Structures Program provides a good example of the advantages of the SPF and SPF/DB processes. In this program, the number of aft fuselage parts was reduced from 772 to 46, and 10,000 fasteners were also eliminated. The load factor capability of the aircraft increased, weight was significantly reduced, and an additional 10-cubic feet of equipment space was gained.
MDA-St. Louis is investigating using this process with aluminum alloys by purchasing a mature SPF-aluminum alloy technology base from Superform USA. The company has licensing agreements with Superform to include design and fabrication technology and rights to proprietary SPF-aluminum alloy materials. This capability provides the means to produce large and complex parts to replace conventional designs and fabrications, and the capability to fabricate complex geometries not possible with conventional techniques. The potential exists for significant reductions in the numbers of detail parts and fasteners with an associated potential for cost reduction of 10% to 60%.
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