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F-35 bulkheads

Addressing the 77th Annual Technical Meeting of the Indian Institute of Metals and National Metallurgist Awards (IIM-ATM 2023 and NMA) held at KIIT, Bhubaneswar, experts shed light on the challenges and solutions surrounding the production of AMCA titanium bulkheads.

The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) program, India’s ambitious fifth-generation fighter jet project, demands the production of large, high-strength titanium bulkheads. However, current infrastructure limitations include the lack of a 50,000-ton machine Currently, only one such machine exists anywhere in the world, that is developed by Arconic Defense which provides F-35 bulkheads, which are manufactured in a single piece by Arconic remarked another expert.

“Faced with infrastructure constraints for the manufacturing of large single titanium plates or monolithic forging, the present solution for the production of AMCA titanium bulkheads is to weld multiple, smaller titanium plates together,” stated one of the presenters.

The welding process, while feasible, introduces additional complexity and potential quality concerns. To address these issues, researchers are exploring advanced welding techniques and developing robust inspection methods to ensure the integrity of the welded joints.

Another challenge lies in the fabrication of large bulkhead frames. “Manufacture of large bulkhead frame (Ti64): Establishing machining, welding & heat treatment to demonstrate fabrication of bulkhead frames from profile machined sections from forged 120 mm (T) plates & type certification,” highlighted another speaker.

To overcome these limitations, researchers are investigating alternative manufacturing techniques, such as Additive Manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. AM offers the potential to produce bulkheads in one piece out of aluminium or titanium, eliminating the need for welding and its associated challenges.

Despite these challenges, the Indian aerospace industry remains committed to developing and manufacturing AMCA titanium bulkheads. By combining innovative manufacturing techniques, advanced materials research, and rigorous quality control measures, India is poised to overcome infrastructure constraints and produce world-class AMCA titanium bulkheads.

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