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Flow Forming of Materials for Aerostructures with Boeing

Topic description

Are you looking to gain direct industrial experience with Boeing, whilst developing your specialist research area of interest?

Flow forming is a manufacturing technique whereby a hollow metal blank (pre-from) is mounted onto a rotating mandrel and the material is made to flow axially along the mandrel by the action of one or more rollers.

The process has numerous known advantages including reduced material usage and lower cost in comparison to alternative manufacturing routes such as machining, extrusion and deep drawing.

However, adoption of flow forming by the aerospace industry is limited, primarily due to lack on knowledge of how aerospace grade materials respond in the process and applicability for complex geometries and critical components.

Boeing is the world's largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defence, space and security systems, and service provider of aftermarket support.

This near net shape manufacturing technique, if adopted by Boeing, and / or their supply chain, could allow for the production of dimensionally accurate near net shaped hollow components at a much lower cost and reduced lead time.

Such shaped components are used in landing gear, hydraulic reservoirs and actuator systems. Flow forming could provide an alternative manufacturing process for these critical structural components which currently have a long lead-

time, poor material utilisation (buy to fly ratio) and require extensive machining to achieve the final shape.

This PhD study will focus on generating a detailed understanding of key aspects of flow forming; the suitability of various aerospace grade materials for flow forming, identification of component features suitable for manufacture by flow forming, geometries that can be achieved using these materials during forming, the formability limits and the characterisation of parts produced by flow forming.

The intention of this project is to enable the adoption of flow forming either by Boeing, or by a supply chain partner, for the production of aerospace components.

Research Challenge

  • CNC-based flow forming is a manufacturing technology popular in countries, such as China, America and throughout Europe;
  • it can be used in a number of sectors including nuclear, oil and gas and medical instruments amongst others, but notably not so much particularly in relation to aerospace.

    Flow forming sees the incremental reduction of the wall thickness of a cylindrical preform, stretching and extruding it out through the application of forming rollers which flow the material along a mandrel.

    It’s a highly controlled process that allows for the creation of long cylinder components with varying wall thicknesses and complex geometries.

    Presently within aerospace manufacturing, there is opportunity to use flow forming to manufacture components such as control rods, hydraulic cylinders and hollow tubular sections.

    Significant benefits can also be achieved through adoption of the process to produce critical, high value components such as engine shafts and landing gear components, of which the majority are manufactured from solid forged billets.

    However, adoption of flow forming by the aerospace industry is limited, primarily due to lack on detailed understanding on how aerospace grade materials respond to the process, and the applicability of the technique for complex geometries and critical components.

    This PhD study will address several key areas of knowledge on flow forming, which are not currently available and thereby pose a barrier to the adoption of flow forming as a manufacturing process for aerospace manufacturers :

    The study will assess and demonstrate which aerospace grade materials are suitable for flow forming.

    The study will characterise the geometric features and aerospace part geometries which are suitable for flow forming.

    Optimum starting stock of materials for flow forming. This could be in order to achieve the required deformation and final microstructure, but must also consider cost implications and the current product form that particular alloys are available in.

    Geometries that can be achieved with the identified aerospace grade materials during flow forming, defining the formability limits.

    This could include the use of computer modelling.

    Develop and implement in process monitoring techniques and the implementation of industry 4 in flow forming and demonstrating how this can be used to negate the use of extensive testing post forming.

    Characterisation of parts produced by flow forming in terms of mechanical properties, microstructural and residual stress characterisation.

    This will also consider heat treatments that will be required post forming. Then comparison to alternative more traditional manufacturing methods.

    Economic cost analysis of flow forming compared to parts produced by alternative, more traditional manufacturing methods.

    This 4-year studentship covers full EU / UK PhD tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. Candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

    Funding further details

    4-year Fully Funded PhD Studentship is available to cover Home Fees and Stipend.

    Presentation of host institution and host laboratory

    University of Strathclyde (Glasgow)


    A leading international university, Strathclyde received a fivestar rating in a QS audit of universities’ key performance areas.

    With around 22,000 students from more than 100 nations, we have transformed our campus, investing £650 million

    over the course of the current decade to create a first-class working and learning environment for you, our students.

    Located in the heart of Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, Strathclyde offers a fantastic experience, where you will enjoy flexible, innovative learning and excellent facilities.

    For more than 200 years, Strathclyde has been meeting the needs of students and society through education, research, innovation and enterprise.

    The Department of Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management (DMEM)

    Welcome to DMEM, we are part of Scotland’s largest Engineering Faculty which has more than 800 international students studying with us from almost 100 countries.

    We are the only department in the UK to combine end-to-end multidisciplinary expertise from creative design through engineering design, manufacture and management of the entire systems, as well as the first department funded by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology outside of China.

    Our research is centred on the vision of Delivering Total Engineering’. We investigate processes, systems and technology to support and enable engineering from concept to remanufacture.

    We host the Advanced Forming Research Centre (a £60m state of the art facility with a £38.5m project portfolio) a partnership between the University of Strathclyde and global industrial manufacturing companies, the Centre for Precision Manufacturing, the Design Research Group, the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group (which includes SMesTech), the Sustainability and Remanufacturing Group and the Engineering Management Group (which is involved in the Strathclyde Institute for Operations Management, which brings together the leading experts in Operations Management from Strathclyde’s Business School and the Engineering Faculty).

    We are also involved in the Advanced Manufacturing Industrial Doctorate Centre, Continuous Manufacturing and Crystallisation, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and the Weir Advanced Research Centre.

    The University of Strathclyde is also the anchor university for the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), the base for the Scottish Institute for Remanufacturing (SIR) and hosts the Maritime Research and Innovation centre UK (MarRI-UK).

    Website : PhD title

    PhD title

    PhD in Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management

    Country where you obtained your PhD

    United Kingdom

    Institution awarding doctoral degree

    University of Strathclyde

    Graduate school

    University of Strathclyde

    Candidate's profile

    Applications are welcome from all who possess or are about to obtain a first class or 2.1 BEng (Hons), MEng or MSc degree, or equivalent EU / International qualification, in a relevant discipline.

    Applications from Home, Rest of UK and EU students will receive funding of the home fee and stipend.

    International Students are welcome to apply but should be aware of the additional funding requirements and will have to provide evidence that they can pay the difference in fees of circa £16k per annum.

    OpenAugust 22, 2019

    CloseNovember 30, 2019

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