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Chapter 2

Advanced materials and process

technologies for aerospace structures
Tsugio Imamura

Considerable eort is being directed to reducing the weight of aerospace
structures and their associated manufacturing costs. Derivatives from
current aluminium alloys are being developed to provide materials for low
fatigue crack propagation rate and damage tolerance design. For titanium
alloys the target is a better balance between strength and fracture toughness
and higher fatigue resistance. Process technology is being improved to
produce one-piece complex conguration parts, to reduce assembly costs
and to reduce weight through fewer parts. For future structures, such as in
supersonic transport, further developments in forming technology for lightweight heat resistant materials will be needed.

Aluminium alloys
Generally the fracture toughness of 2024 is improved by decreasing the volume
fraction of constituent particles (Cu2 FeAl17 , Mg2 Si etc.), and fatigue crack
growth rate at high applied stress intensity K is reduced with improved fracture toughness [13]. Investigation shows that: (a) fracture toughness is
proportional to the square root of the spacing of the constituent particles;
(b) fatigue crack growth rates at low and medium K depend on the size of
dispersoids (Cu2 Mn3 Al20 ); and (c) coarse dispersoids reduce the fatigue
crack growth rate. Both fracture toughness and fatigue crack growth rate
are thus improved by careful control of constituent and dispersoid particles.

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Current Approach
Fracture Toughness
Fatigue Crack
Growth Rate

Control of

Alloy Composition

Amount of

Amount of

MHI/KSL Approach
Fracture Toughness
Fatigue Crack
Growth Rate

Control of

Alloy Composition
and Process

Amount and Spacing

of Constituent

Amount of
Fe, Si, Cu

Size of

Amount of Mn
Homogenizing Condition

Figure 2.1. New approach to improving fracture toughness and fatigue crack growth rate.

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Figure 2.2. Fracture toughness of 2X24 improved by 20% compared with 2024.

This is shown in gure 2.1, giving details of an alloy/process combination

developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Kobe Steel.
The fracture toughness and fatigue crack growth rate in the newly designed
alloy 2X24 have been measured as shown in gure 2.2 and gure 2.3. 2X24

Figure 2.3. Fatigue crack growth rate of 2X24 improved by 50% compared with 2024.

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shows approximately 20% higher fracture toughness than 2024 without loss
of tensile yield strength, because of an increased spacing of constituent
particles in the microstructure. At the same time 2X24 shows approximately
50% lower fatigue crack growth rate over the whole range of K. From
scanning electron microscope observations of the fracture surfaces of fatigue
test specimens, narrow and wavy striation patterns are observed. Coarse
dispersoids are associated with the waviness, showing that they obstruct
the crack propagation.

Figure 2.4. Crack growth simulation, showing the possibility of reducing the skin gauge by
21% compared with 2024.

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A crack growth simulation and estimation of the margin of safety has

been performed on the application of 2X24 alloy for the centre fuselage
crown panel of a Global Express business jet, using a modied generalized
Willenborg model. The crack growth simulation shows that 2X24 has
twice the fatigue life of 2024 in the same thickness gauge, and a 21%
thickness reduction can be achieved with the same fatigue life, as shown in
gure 2.4.
Titanium alloys
The application of titanium alloys for aerospace is increasing because of
good combinations of strength, toughness, corrosion resistance and compatibility with polymer composite materials. For the Boeing 777 aircraft rolled
out in 1995, a variety of titanium alloys are used to make up 9% of the total
craft weight. For example a large Ti-6Al-4V casting is used for the
APU duct panel, and a Ti-10V-2Fe-3Al large forging is used for the landing
gear truck beam. Figure 2.5 shows the material distribution of the newest
ghter F-22 developed by the US Air Force [4], and the titanium alloy
usage is over 30% of the structural weight. The major titanium alloys on
the F-22 are Ti-6Al-4V and Ti-6Al-2Sn-2Zr-2Mo-2Cr-Si.
Titanium alloys are also widely used for aerospace structures. The most
used alloy is Ti-6Al-4V, which has a wide variation of mechanical
properties under dierent heat treatment conditions, as shown in gure
2.6. The alloy has moderate tensile strength and moderate fracture toughness
when annealed in the region to produce a uniform equi-axed phase




Figure 2.5. Material distribution on the F-22 ghter.

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Figure 2.6. Mechanical properties of Ti-6Al-4V heat treated under dierent


microstructure, and is used generally for many aerospace components. At

higher temperatures the -annealed alloy shows very high fracture toughness
but very low strength, and is used in high fracture toughness required parts
such as stop tting. The solution treated and over aged alloy has superior
strength and fracture toughness, and is used for dynamic helicopter parts
such as rotors.
Recently an improved heat treatable alloy Ti-10V-2Fe-3Al has become
more popular for aerospace applications. The alloy was developed by
Timet as a high strength, high fracture toughness alloy. The alloy properties
of strength and fracture toughness were re-designed by the airframe

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Figure 2.7. Application of Ti-10V-2Fe-3Al alloy for the F-2 ghter.

manufacturer, MHI. At rst, Fe segregation was found in the alloy, causing a

low transus temperature locally and resulting in ecks, i.e. coarse grain
structure areas with low elongation. It was necessary to remove the Fe
segregation and ensure uniformity, selecting a higher solution temperature
to remove ecks and ensure high fracture toughness. Figure 2.7 provides
an example of a near-net-shape forging using a re-designed Ti-10V-2Fe3Al alloy for the F-2 ghter.
The new rich alloy SP700 (Ti-4.5Al-3V-2Fe-2Mo) was
developed by NKK, and was designed to be more stable than Ti-6Al-4V,
by addition of molybdenum and iron. The SP700 alloy has a ne grain
structure and good superplastic formability at low temperature, as shown
in gure 2.8 [5]. MHI is developing the application of superplastic formed
parts by using SP700 for H-2A rocket components.

Process technology
Many unique manufacturing methods have been used to produce aerospace
components. Techniques have been developed to optimize dicult-to-work
materials and complicated component congurations, resulting from a
pursuit of ultimate lightweight structures. On the other hand, manufacturing
cost savings are a universal requirement even when there is a limited amount
of parts production. Die-less forming has been used extensively to reduce
manufacturing costs. Peen forming of complex curvature wing panels, roll
forming of stringers and/or frames, and chip forming of the cylindrical

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Figure 2.8. Superplastic elongation and ow stress of SP700.

skins of rocket tanks and/or skin panels of airliners are typical examples of
representative die-less forming used in the aerospace industries. Aerospace
applications also require integrated components, large-size structures and
panel thickness control to achieve ultimate weight reduction. Superplastic
forming and roll forming are typical examples of technologies combining
die-less forming with integrated manufacture and thickness control to
achieve substantial cost saving and weight reduction.
Superplastic forming
Superplastic forming was developed as a technology to form integrated single
piece structures, which could replace assembled structures with intricate detail
and fasteners, by making the most of the exceptional formability of superplastic materials. Superplastic forming can reduce the numbers of parts and
fasteners, which leads to considerable cost saving and weight reduction.
Figure 2.9 [6] shows a superplastic formed inner skin made of 7475 aluminium
alloy, which is to be put together with an outer skin of the same material to
form an access-door panel. The conventional door panel consists of 15 to 25
detailed parts assembled with many fasteners. In this particular case, more
than 20% weight reduction and 40% cost saving was achieved by using superplastic forming compared with the conventional manufacturing methods.
Superplastic formed parts can have as close a tolerance as machined parts,
allowing the manufacture of elaborate components like fuel tanks, which
require high accuracy and thin wall thickness. Figure 2.10 [7] shows a teardrop

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Figure 2.9. Superplastic formed inner skin of an access-door panel.

shaped fuel tank for a satellite fabricated by superplastic forming and electron
beam welding. The fuel tank is made of Ti-6Al-4V and has the optimum thickness distribution leading to exceptional weight reduction. The spherical area
has a constant thickness of 0.75 mm and the cone area has a thickness distribution varying from 0.93 to 0.56 mm corresponding to the curvature. Since
superplastic forming is necessarily accompanied by non-uniform thin out,

Figure 2.10. Teardrop shaped fuel tank for a satellite with the optimum thickness

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Figure 2.11. Missile n made of a SiC whisker-reinforced 7075 composite which replaced
the conventional n with weight reduction of more than 50%.

the stock sheets were machined to provide suitable thickness distribution after
Superplastic behaviour has been of great importance as a forming
technology for dicult-to-work materials such as metal matrix composites
and intermetallic compounds. Superplastic forming has enabled advanced
but less workable materials to be plastically formed and therefore become
cost competitive, facilitating the practical use of high performance materials
and improving the performance of many aerospace components. Figure 2.11
[6] shows a missile n fabricated by superplastic forming of SiC whiskerreinforced 7075 composites, which replaced the conventional n with a
weight reduction exceeding 50%. The next generation of aerospace
components will require further weight reduction and cost saving, and the
combined process of superplastic forming and diusion bonding is a promising technology. The fabrication of various kinds of sandwich panel has been
under development, focusing on the way to combine superplastic forming
with diusion bonding and the edge structure needed to join panels to
each other. Figure 2.12 shows a hollow fan blade fabricated by 4-sheet
superplastic forming/diusion bonding, and a at panel with the same core
Roll forming
Stringer and frames, major components of aircraft structure, are manufactured by machining from extrusions or by roll forming from sheet.
Figure 2.13 [8] shows a roll-formed stringer having an optimum thickness

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Figure 2.12. Hollow fan blade fabricated by 4-sheet superplastic forming/diusion bonding and core structure.

Figure 2.13. Taper-rolled stringer with controlled thickness corresponding to stress distribution.

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Figure 2.14. Dependence of the threshold stress for stress corrosion cracking on the aspect
ratio of grains.

distribution corresponding to variations of stress along the longitudinal

direction, which oers 2030% weight reduction compared with a constant
thickness stringer. The optimum thickness distribution is also achieved
economically by taper rolling. The overall manufacturing process is taper
rolling of annealed strip, solution heat treatment, ten steps of section roll
forming and articial ageing. The roll-formed stringers require a special
microstructure, ne enough to endure successive bending operations with a
bend radius as small as 1.3 times the thickness. On the other hand, the
stringers have to be resistant to stress corrosion cracking, which requires a
rather coarse microstructure in directions perpendicular to the applied
stress. Thus the stringer strips need a grain structure with a large aspect
ratio, ne in the transverse direction to maintain formability, and coarse in
the transverse direction to provide good stress corrosion cracking resistance.
Figure 2.14 [8] shows the dependence of threshold stress for stress corrosion
cracking as a function of the aspect ratio of the grains, together with the ow
stress during stringer manufacture. In order to maintain the large aspect ratio
grain structure in strip rolled to various degrees at dierent positions, it was
necessary to adopt special recovery heat treatments between the taper rolling
and solution heat treatment steps.

Recently, new metallic materials technologies have been developed to
enhance lightweight structure and reduce costs in aerospace applications.

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Strength, fracture toughness and corrosion resistance must be optimized at

the same time as reducing manufacturing costs, through the development
of near-net-shape forming, and by using integrated components with reduced
part numbers, for example by superplastic forming. These development
activities show steady progress and achievement.


Speidel M O 1975 Sixth International Light Metals Conference Lepven/Vienna p 67

Rice J R and Johnson M A 1970 Inelastic Behavior of Solids p 641
Staley J T et al 1970 Inelastic Behavior of Solids p 641
JMIA 1992 Feb.
Ogawa A, Fukai H, Minakawa and Ouchi C Beta Titanium Alloys in the 1990s p 513
Tsuzuku T, Takahashi A and Sakamoto A 1991 Superplasticity in Advanced Materials
ed S Dori, M Tokizame and N Furushiro (The Japan Society for Research on Superplasticity) p 611
[7] Takahashi A , Shimizu S and Tsuzuku T 1999 J. Japan. Society Res. Superplasticity
31(356) 1128
[8] Hirota K, Ibaragi M et al 19965 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Technical Review 33(3)

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