The Filament Winding of Titanium Silicon Carbides (TiSiCs) project was proposed by the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of the General Support Technology Programme (GSTP).
The GSTP is receives funding from the ESA’s Member States on a voluntary basis and provides funding for projects with a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 4 – 6. The goal of the GSTP as stated by ESA is to ensure that “the right technology with the right maturity are available at the right time”.
In early 2015, after successfully tendering for the project, TISICS Limited and Thinklaser Limited were jointly awarded €2.5M in research and development funding from the GSTP.
The project is aimed at developing a method to wind a TiSiC fibre around a rotating mandrel (a process called filament winding) and securing fibres together to produce sub-scale and in a second phase full scale components for use in the space industry. This method will be capable of producing surfaces that bend in two axes, meaning that more complex components can be produced using titanium silicon carbide composites leading to greater weight saving and, as a result, cost savings.
Orbital launches are extremely expensive, costing €10,000 for each kg of payload mass, as a result the reduction in mass of components intended for space will lead to large cost savings throughout the supply chain. In addition there is a new push to incorporate more green based products meaning that new materials and composites are required.
The two companies will work on the project together with TISICS providing the material, testing and component production knowledge and Thinklaser providing the material handling and laser processing knowledge.
This GSTP project with ESA was established to help Europe exploit the performance advantages of the fibre reinforced titanium composites. The GSTP focuses on the development of systems for filament winding parts to achieve precise fibre positioning in complex curved shapes and more efficient automated production, particularly for multi-axial fibre reinforced tubular parts. The process will enable the production of fibre reinforced tubular and spherical pressure vessels in the future where the curvature is not achievable with current foil and fibre composite processes.