The Group's key research themes are the development and validation of Additive Technologies in new and advanced applications, new materials and process development, and Additive Technology enabled new business models. Current projects span across all of these themes:
New and Advanced Applications:
3D Printing of Electrical Systems onto Existing Automotive Components
Using innovative 3D printing technologies for the direct addition of electrical circuits and components onto existing car components, to add functionality to the components and light-weighting vehicles through the elimination of electrical cabling. The aim of this research is to investigate the direct printing of electronics onto pre-existing automotive components and to assess their quality and compliance with Jaguar Land Rover standards and their long-term performance and failure modes under end-use conditions. EPSRC iCASE funded in collaboraton with JLR.
3D printing of Li-Ion Micro-batteries
This project is aiming to demonstrate the innovative manufacture of micro-lithium ion batteries (mLIB) with graphene-enhanced electrodes through Additive Manufacturing. It will deliver a mLIB with graphene-modified cathode and measured electrochemical performance. Material extrusion and material jetting 3D printing technologies will be used for the deposition of highly controllable anode and cathode geometries, to manufacture the micro-batteries powering micro-devices. The work is being performed in collaboration with the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and is funded through the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.
3D Printing of Microwave Antennas
3D printing technology is very promising for THz device fabrications. Using high resolution material extrusion 3D Printing to deposit metallic antenna elements onto CMOS terrahertz resonators. One of the key objectives of this project is to investigate 3D printing technology for wideband active and passive antennas and arrays. This work is a collaboration between WMG, University of Kent School of Engineering and Digital Arts, KU Leuven, Graz University of Technology, and is funded through the EU's Framework 7 CHIST-ERA programme supported by the Future & Emerging Technologies scheme (FET) and EPSRC.
New Materials and Process Development:
Powder Bed Laser Fusion of High Strength Al-Fe Alloys
Investigating the microstructure and physical properties of Al-Fe alloys processed through laser powder bed fusion and casting, with the aim of delivering a new high strength material for ALM of complex, loaded aluminium components. Recylcing of aluminium is gaining importance in automotive and aerospace industries but the presence of iron in aluminium alloys hinders the application of recycled alloys in automotive and aerospace applications. Iron in aluminium alloys will be present as hard and brittle intermetallics which hampers the mechanical and performance properties so it is essential to understand the behaviour and effect of iron intermetallics in order to make them useful for industrial applications. The aim of the project is to characterize the effect of iron content on the microstructure and mechanical properties of aluminium alloys. The material of study is pure aluminium and aluminium 12 with iron additions of 0.6 % and 2%, processed through casting and Powder Bed Fusion. Addition of lanthanum and strontium for the modification of the above materials will also be assessed.
Microstructural Evolution in Metal-based Additive Manufacturing Processes and its Effects on Residual Stresses and Shape and Size Accuracy
Plasma Transferred Arc (PTA) cladding has been recently used as an AM technique to fabricate parts in a layer-wise process. The evolution of residual stresses during metal-based AM processes affect the shape and size accuracy of the final component and therefore is a big challenges in commercialising these
techniques. The main aim of this research work is to understand the development of the residual stresses due to the PTA AM to make parts out of Titanium alloy; Ti-6Al-4V. An extensive set of experimental analysis are conducted to evaluate the relationship between process parameters and residual stress state of the final components. Furthermore, a simulation-based methodology will be developed to predict the effect of process parameters on the final parts made by PTA AM. High heating and cooling rates have impact on the phase transformation which differentiate typical transformation procedures. Experimental analysis will be employed to understand the microstructural evolution and phase transformation procedure and evaluate the resultant residual stresses. Standard mechanical testing will be conducted to characterise the couplings of physical/mechanical properties and their impacts on the final residual stress distribution. These results will be compared with the simulation results which will eventually provide a foundation for a comprehensive understanding of metallurgical evolution in metal-based AM processes. A coupling analysis is required to incorporate the influence of temperature gradients as well as other process parameters.The project is funded through EPSRC DTG.
3D Printing of Optical Elements
Investigating the use of ink jet printing technologies to ‘print’ optical materials to form complex elements. Using the manufacturing flexibility of 3D printing to enable complex optical material designs and light-weighting of the optical elements. The project is funded through EPSRC iCASE, supported by QioptiQ.
Powder Bed Laser Fusion of High Strength Aluminium Alloys
High resolution laser fusion of high strength aluminium alloys, driven by an industrial draw to enable ALM of load-bearing aluminium components. The project will investigate the Powder Bed Fusion processing of aluminium alloys that are notoriously difficult to weld and thus present challenges in their processing using laser melting. Development of post-processing methodologies (thermal processing) will also be investigated to remove residual stresses without inducing cracking. The project is funded through EPSRC DTG, supported by Innovate 2 Make Ltd.
Minimising Waste and Maximising Quality in the Inert Gas Atomisation of High Temperature Alloys for Powder Metallurgy and Additive Layer Manufacturing Applications
The PhD project will analyse recognised non-steady-state phenomena in the production of spherical powder metals to establish their root cause, develop analysis techniques to model them and identify methodologies to minimise their occurrence. The project will analyse the effects across a range of materials and a cross section of production parameters to identify commonalities and root causes. The project will attempt to model these phenomena and develop techniques to minimise their effect within the models. The project is funded through EPSRC iCASE, supported by TATA Steel and Atomising Solutions Ltd.
Series production of Lightweight parts by Isostatic pressing of Metal powders to give Material and Energy Reduction (SLIMMER)
The aim of this project is to develop a novel net-shape process will be developed to enable complex, light-weight components to be manufactured in high production volumes with minimal waste. Metal powders are encapsulated in a complex-geometry reusable rubber tool and isostatically cold-pressed (CIPed) to approximately 75% density. The resulting ‘green’ compacts are fully densified using a novel hot isostatic pressing (HIP) method employing a secondary pressure medium (SPM). Using this "bran tub" approach multiple green compacts can be fully densified at once, lowering the associated HIPing cost, and opening up HIP processing to high volume applications such as the production of gears and crankshafts for automotive and aerospace applications. Key innovations include novel tooling method to produce partially consolidated complex compacts and novel processing route to simultaneously consolidate multiple components to full density. WMG are responsible for the development of an environmental model of the benchmark and SLIMMER processes to ensure that the develpoed process remains ecologically viable. SLIMMER is a coollaboration between WMG and the Hauk Heat Treatment, Jaguar land Rover, Universities of Cambridge and Birmingham, TATA Steel, MTC, Atomising Systems Ltd, Arrk Europe Ltd, and AMRC. This project is funded through Innovate UK.
Additive Layer Manufacturing Enabled New Business Models:
Modularity in a Service Context
Within a manufacturers service model, the products function/use may continually change through life to fit with the customers’s use requirements. Little research has been conducted to show how customers’ emergent needs during the use of the offering affects the products architecture, when the newly prescribed requirements were not designed into the original architecture. This research provides an in-depth, longitudinal case study of a capital goods manufacturer within the defence industry; highlighting that existing product architecture and modularity literature may be fundamentally incomplete and misleading for manufacturers pursuing service. The research uses a multi-method approach; including in-depth interviews, analysis of texts, design structure
matrix and a measure of the degree of modularity for three armoured fighting vehicles. The project is funded through EPSRC iCASE, supported by BAE Systems.