Manufacturing and process innovation

ATKINS: Additive Manufacturing a Low Carbon Footprint

Loughborough University, Econolyst, Bentley Motors, Alcon Components, Delphi, Virgin Atlantic, Boeing, MTT Technologies

Additive-manufacturing technology, which enables engineers to effectively print functional components from scratch, has long been something of a holy grail for manufacturers.

While traditional so-called subtractive manufacturing processes generate large amounts of waste and are limited in the complexity of the components they can produce, additive processes offer the promise of waste-free manufacturing of highly optimised complex components.
The Atkins project, led by Loughborough University’s world-leading additive manufacturing research group-and drawing on the expertise of a number of major engineering companie is attempting to move this technology into the mainstream.

Additive processes can print functional componenets from scratch

By developing the tools to design highly complex optimised components and working on improving the repeatability and reliability of the technology, the project is addressing the benefits of additive manufacturing techniques on a number of fronts.

Applications in the aerospace industry are particularly exciting. Not only could buy-to-fly ratios (i.e. the amount of material bought to the amount of material flown being brought close to 1:1), but additive techniques could also be used to produce topologically optimised components that don’t compromise on strength but enable the end product to be lighter and more fuel efficient.

MALCO – the manufacture of lightweight components

ThyssenKrupp Tallent, BOC – Linde Group, Isotek Electronics, Camau Estil, Dytel, Komatsu, Bentley Motors, Strathclyde University, TWI 

Welding typically creates distortion in the welded structure and mitigating this can add to the cost of any manufacturing process.
The MALCO project has sought to address this issue by developing so-called ’low-stress no-distortion’ (LSND) welding methods that could lead to shorter manufacturing times and reduce cost across a range of industries.

These methods include thermal tensioning, auxiliary cooling and mechanical restraint, although emphasis was given to auxiliary cooling, which involves cooling of the region just behind the weld using water or CO2.

The overall goal was to develop an LSND system for use in an industrial environment, with cooling on the same side as the arc and integrated to existing robotic MIG welding systems.

The group developed a CO2 delivery system that was then integrated into an automated arc welding system and to carry out welding trials and distortion measurements on a number of components.

Following promising initial results, the process was further refined using thermomechanical computer models developed at both Strathclyde University and TWI.

The industrial LSND system was manufactured by Dytel, and assembled by Isotek BOC and TKT, then installed in a robotic welding cell at TKT, Newton Aycliffe. A number of components were selected for industrial trials and in all cases distortion was reduced by up to 50 per cent.

Micro-Porous Metals for Thermal Management

C-Tech Innovation, Liverpool University, Thermacore Europe, TotalCarbide, VacuaTherm, Ecka Granules Metal Powders

It is a well-known fact that electronic devices are becoming smaller and smaller and more powerful. But these improvements also mean that electronic devices are generating greater amounts of heat and if these advances are to continue, engineers will need to find increasingly sophisticated methods of dissipating this heat.

This project developed an innovative Lost Carbonate Sintering (LCS) process for manufacturing micro-porous metals for lighter, more efficient heat exchangers.

According to the group, LCS porous metals are potentially excellent materials for use as lightweight heat sinks, heat pipes and active cooling devices in electronics, defence, aerospace and automotive industries. This is thanks to the increased surface area of porous copper produced by the process.

Prototype products developed using the team’s LCS process have, claimed the group, been demonstrated to have far superior active cooling performance over existing technology, removing heat at a rate of 1MW/m2 while maintaining the component temperature below 85ºC.

The world market for thermal-management products is estimated to be approximately $7bn, with an average annual growth rate of 8.5%. Thermal-management hardware accounts for more than three-quarters of the total thermal management market. Heat sinks and heat exchangers make up half of the market. Driven by an expanding market, an agreement has been made among project partners to exploit the technology. Commercial production of thermal products using this technology is scheduled to start within six months.

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