Ultrasonic machining device cuts like a “knife through butter”

An ultrasonic device developed by researchers at Loughborough university could, it is claimed revolutionise cutting, drilling and milling processes.

The tool, which relies on a technique called ultrasonically-assisted machining (UAM) and has so far been tested on composite materials, uses a specially designed piezoelectric transducer working in tandem with a traditional turning, drilling or milling machine.

Creating ultrasonic vibrations at anything between 20kHz and 39kHz, the device makes the composite material so ‘soft’ in the area being worked on that much less force is needed from the cutting tool, resulting in less damage, less waste, and a better finish.

The technique is the brainchild of Professor Vladimir Babitsky, from the Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, and has been developed extensively in the last few years with the support of Dr Anish Roy and Professor Vadim Silberschmidt.

‘The technique has been successful in the laboratory where multi-fold improvements in cutting intractable aerospace alloys have been demonstrated. It makes machining so easy it is like cutting through butter,’ said Dr Roy.

The technique is currently being extended into biomedical applications such as drilling holes in bones for orthopaedic surgery and is also thought to have potential for drilling the tiny in printed circuit boards that are required for precision electronics manufacture.