Safran commits to developing new French titanium sector
On March 16, 2016, Safran entered into an R&D contract with the MetaFensch* research platform and the Eramet metallurgical group with the aim of developing the French titanium sector of the future. We caught up with Marjorie Cavarroc, responsible for the technical and contractual aspects of the project, and Ludovic Molliex, Vice-President of Materials and Processes at Safran, to find out more.
Under this partnership, Safran, which uses titanium to manufacture its products, will take part in two pilot projects at MetaFensch's site in Uckange in the east of France. The first pilot project aims to develop a titanium powder production process and the second focuses on recycling unusable titanium powders for direct manufacturing. "The goal is to acquire expertise in the manufacturing of titanium powders and the recovery of production waste. In the long term, it is also a matter of being able to recycle high-performance alloy parts with a view to creating a genuine circular economy within the Group," explains Ludovic Molliex, Vice-President, Materials and Processes, Safran.
Safran will lend its expertise in high-performance alloys and must approve their quality and that of the powders produced: "We check that the quality of the alloys obtained matches the highest aeronautical standards," explains Marjorie Cavarroc, Project Manager. Aubert & Duval, a subsidiary of Eramet and long-standing Safran supplier, will be tasked with the process engineering. Lastly, the MetaFensch platform is tasked with managing the operational aspects and will provide the production facilities.
The processes that are developed will be incorporated into the new plant set to be built by Aubert & Duval in the Puy-de-Dôme department in the center of France, due to be put into operation in early 2018. In addition to lending its materials expertise, Safran is also helping to develop the new French titanium sector. "As things stands, the majority of titanium comes from the US or Russia. A French sector able to supply the European aerospace industry is of great strategic interest," says Ludovic Molliex. The titanium alloys made by EcoTitanium could eventually be used to supply three of the Group's companies: Safran Aircraft Engines (engines), Safran Aero Boosters (equipment for engines) and Safran Landing Systems (landing gear).
Numerous possible applications
While the use of composite materials is becoming increasingly prevalent in the aerospace industry, titanium-based alloys still play a crucial part in the architecture of engines and landing systems
.Understanding the titanium chain, from obtaining alloys to assembling parts and recycling parts, therefore underpins Safran's innovation strategy. One of the most promising uses for titanium powder is additive manufacturing: a process which builds up layers by depositing titanium powder is being developed by the Group's specialized entity Safran Additive Manufacturing. "Titanium has a bright future, and the creation of a French sector can only be beneficial for the Group," sums up Marjorie Cavarroc.
Environmental and economic benefits
MetaFensch is a public industrial development and research platform in the field of metallurgy and its circular economy. In particular, it aims to promote the latter in the field of metal production. Building on the success of the partnership with MetaFensch, Safran is keen to be in a position to recycle the titanium alloys in engines and other components at the end of their life cycle with a view to reusing them in the manufacturing of new parts. This will mitigate the environmental impact and significantly reduce the amount of raw material used.
*MetaFensch is a research and development center funded by the French state as part of the Future Investments Program.
- © Cyril Abad / CAPA Pictures / Safran