A team led by Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) has been awarded a £3.5 million (€3.8 million) contract by the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to develop new techniques, applying the latest research and technology, for using recycled titanium in defence applications. The project, known as ‘Affordable Titanium for Defence,’ will be delivered in two phases over four years.

Currently, steel is the most commonly used material for military equipment. However, titanium is often preferred as it has a similar strength and is approximately half the weight.  As titanium is an expensive raw material, the RBSL-led team will develop a solution that recycles titanium waste material, known as ‘swarf,’ and turns it into a reusable product at reduced cost and effort. The team will explore which type of waste material is best to use, how best to process the material and what material properties work best for defence equipment such as combat vehicle armour or running gear.  The project will also involve testing to assess ballistic, fatigue and corrosion performance if used in-service across land, maritime, or air equipment.

RBSL will lead the project as prime contractor and will collaborate with academic and industry experts across the UK.  The team includes BAE Systems’ Air sector, which has already conducted extensive research and uses titanium across a range of components; BAE Systems’ Maritime and Land sectors will also advise on potential naval applications; MBDA will provide missile systems support; and Transition International will conduct reprocessing trials, as well as providing advice on reprocessing techniques. The team also includes academic institutions: the University of Sheffield will share its considerable advanced materials research in this field; and the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre team will apply its metal forming technology research.

Through the first phase of the contract, small-scale components will be produced and tested to establish how successfully recycled titanium can be incorporated into defence equipment, prior to launching the second phase.

The air domain in defence uses titanium alloys extensively; however, the cost of this material can be prohibitive in the land and maritime domains. This project is an opportunity to address this cost issue with the added benefit of helping the environment through re-using valuable waste material,” commented RBSL’s Technology Programmes Manager, Nick Brown.

The project aims to be able to recycle valuable material – which currently goes to waste – leading to cost and environmental benefits for future defence programmes. (Photo: The University of Sheffield)

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