A team comprising of Thales Alenia Space, Cranfield University and Glenalmond Technologies have successfully produced a first full-scale prototype of a titanium pressure vessel to be used in future manned missions for space exploration.
The piece is approximately 1 m in height and 8.5 kg in mass. Made of the titanium alloy (Ti-6Al-4V), it has been deposited using the Wire + Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) process, which Cranfield University has pioneered over the last decade.
WAAM has integrated two individual pieces into a single part; eliminating the need for long-lead-time forgings and substantially reduced the amount of waste material removed by machining.
By using the WAAM process, more than 200 kg of Ti-6Al-4V has been saved for each item.
The WAAM shape was manufactured at Cranfield and then sent to Glenalmond Technologies where it was stress-relieved, laser-scanned, machined and inspected using an ultrasonic method. The final inspection was performed by Agiometrix using computer tomography (CT-scan) for internal quality analysis and an optical scanner, with Thales Alenia Space ensuring that the part met the mechanical requirements and specifications.