Advancements of Superplastic Forming and Diffusion Bonding of Titanium Alloys for Heat Critical Aerospace Applications 2020-01-0033
Titanium’s high strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance makes it ideal for many aerospace applications, especially in heat critical zones. Superplastic Forming (SPF) can be used to form titanium into near-net, complex shapes without springback. The process uses a machined die where inert gas is applied uniformly to the metal sheet, forming the part into the die cavity. Standard titanium alpha-beta alloys, such as 6Al-4V, form at temperatures between 900 and 925ºC (1650-1700ºF). Recent efforts have demonstrated alloys that form at lower temperatures ranging between 760 and 790ºC (1400-1450ºF). Lowering the forming temperature reduces the amount of alpha case that forms on the part, which must be removed. This provides an opportunity of starting with a lower gauge material. Lower forming temperatures also limit the amount of oxidation and wear on the tool and increase the life of certain press components, such as heaters and platens.
A variation of this process is SPF combined with Diffusion Bonding (SPF/DB) of two or more titanium sheets to produce integrally stiffened structures with limited fasteners and less weight than comparable components. The four sheet process utilizes two core sheets with a welded cell pattern and two face sheets that are welded together along the periphery. Inert gas pressure is then applied at elevated temperature to form the sandwich structure. Recent studies have shown that dissimilar alloys with different grain sizes and flow stresses can be sufficiently diffusion bonded together. Using lower temperature alloys as the core sheet material allows the entire structure to be formed and bonded at a lower temperature regardless of the flow stress of the face sheets.