AFRC forges new path for UK manufacturing

The University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) has made a £2.3-million investment in new kit as it seeks to enhance the competitiveness of the UK’s automotive, aerospace, and medical manufacturing sectors.

The centre has purchased a radial forge from Austrian machining company, GFM GmbH – it will be the only machine of its kind available in the UK for R&D and demonstration purposes. The AFRC will use it to trial and prove the viability of new ways of manufacturing parts for hip implants, automotive transmissions, and aerospace components, among other products. Radial forges are much more common in Germany and Austria, where they are frequently used in manufacturing parts for the automotive industry, but a large upfront investment has curbed their adoption in the UK.     

Developed specifically for the AFRC, the radial forge will allow manufacturers to try new alloys, and other materials in a range of applications. Featuring two pairs of hammers, it allows engineers to incrementally develop more complex shapes, improve materials, work at lower temperatures, and create parts that are nearer net shape.

The machine also offers induction heating, which allows it to control how parts are being heated, be more flexible, and produce components more quickly. Its maximum forging force is 1,500 kilonewtons, while it can work with parts of up to 950mm in length and a diameter of 125mm. It offers cold working internal and external tolerances of +/- 0.15mm and +/- 0.25mm, as well as hot working tolerances of +/- 0.25mm and +/- 0.5mm, respectively.

Dr Alastair Conway, Senior Manufacturing Engineer at the AFRC, said:

Having access to this machine could be a real step-change for a number of UK industries, not least the aerospace, automotive, and medical sectors. While we’ll be helping companies in these areas to understand alternative manufacturing routes, we’ll also be working with others to see how markets, such as oil and gas, could benefit.

Radial forging is a technology not widely used in the UK. However, by working with a range of materials and proving the advantages the process offers over traditional hammer and drop forges, we hope to show they could help our manufacturing industries compete more effectively on the international stage.

The AFRC is uniquely positioned to do this – we can test, understand, and demonstrate the process to industry, de-risking the prospect of investment. We’re confident that, once industry sees the benefits, this could lead to greater adoption of the technology across the UK.”