AMS receives Innovate UK funding to further aerospace recycling for Additive Manufacturing

August 17, 2023

The ‘Recycling and Reuse of Aerospace Materials for Additive Manufacturing’ (R2AM2) project from Additive Manufacturing Solutions (AMS), Burscough, West Lancashire, UK, has received funding from Innovate UK to explore the potential for recycling parts into feedstock for metal Additive Manufacturing as well as the processability and final part performance of recycled AM production.

Research on Scrap Recycling of Retired Civil Aircraft‘ by Dan Zhao et al (2021) estimates that there are 740 tonnes of non-ferrous metals (excluding aluminium) available for recycling each year, but only a fraction of that is actually recycled. The project aims to explore a potential environmental step change in the ways materials are used for Additive Manufacturing.

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Research suggests that the international AM powder market is expected to exceed $1 billion in 2023, with titanium accounting for approximately one-third of that market, per 6K Additive. In light of restrictions in supply and increased costs due to ongoing conflicts, and the fact that our planet’s resources are not endless, it is more important than ever to consider utilising the approximately 600 tonnes of recycled aircraft parts that could support this growth by providing a lower-cost, high-quality product. AMS refers to this process as “high-value scrap mining” and believes that if reusable feedstock is available, an alternative to mining can be seen in the UK market.

Robert Higham, CEO and founder of AMS, said, “The UK was once a leader in AM technology, and we have since seen a stagnation period, with our work alongside the output of this project we aspire to enable a vibrant and highly profitable UK source of feedstock and catalyst for material producing parts for our defence, space, aerospace, and automotive industries. Having Innovate UK support our research and development in this field is a significant and crucial step in our plans as AMS. If we are to continue with our ambitious plans to promote and increase on shore manufacturing, it is crucial we enable a secure and sustainable supply chain of product. This project is the first step in providing valuable data as to the true possibilities of high value circular economy development. We are honoured to be awarded the funding to allow us to take this idea to an industrial feasibility state.”

The project is currently underway and expected to conclude in November 2023. AMS plans to recycle scrap aerospace parts into powder, which will be tested and used to manufacture new parts. These parts will provide crucial data to evaluate the effectiveness of this process in providing recycled materials for high-quality feedstock for Additive Manufacturing in the UK.

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