The University of Sheffield joins European 3D printing consortium

Materials World magazine
1 Jul 2019

The University of Sheffield has joined a €17mln European project to enhance the 3D printing industry and its capabilities. Shardell Joseph finds out more.

A European consortium dedicated to advancing additive manufacturing (AM) technologies has welcomed the University of Sheffield as the latest member of the €17mln project.

Led by Spain’s AIMEN Centro Technológico, the intelligent data-driven pipeline for manufacturing certified metal parts through direct energy deposition (INTEGRADDE) project is an objective co-financed by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 programme. It aims to advance Industry 4.0 through AM technology, which involves 26 partners from 11 countries.

The university’s departments involved in the project currently consist of research in data science, signal processing and artificial intelligence – automatic control and systems engineering, research in structural and topological optimisation – civil and structural engineering, as well as research in metallurgy and advanced material characterisation – materials science and engineering.

‘What we are trying to develop is five independent production lines for additive manufacturing in Europe,’ University of Sheffield Professor of Metallurgy, Iain Todd, told Materials World.

‘The idea is that we try out a lot of different emerging technologies like monitoring and control, and understanding the material that goes in and the material that comes out. Through doing all of that, we managed to create an end-to-end process control for additive manufacturing, which presently doesn’t exist.’

The AM agenda

AM has many potential benefits in the metal industry, yet the combination of manufacturing costs and the apparent unpredictable defects in metal products are hindering its widespread adoption and deployment.

The consortium has been established in order to address these issues, developing a strategy of integral optimisation and control of the AM processes – from product design to final verification – enabling the implementation of new manufacturing frameworks faster with zero defects.

The collective goal of INTEGRADDE, therefore, is to develop a novel end-to-end solution capable of demonstrating the potential of directed energy deposition processes for the manufacturing of certified large metal components in strategic metalworking sectors. The data-driven pipeline for the project consists of seven steps – the first section comprising computer-aided technologies, to building, finishing with the post-processing section.

The project aims to develop new methodologies to ensure the manufacturability, reliability and quality of a target metal component from the initial product design.

According to Todd, the process will allow the manufacturing of much larger components than traditional AM. ‘The standard additive manufacturing is what they call a factory in a box, where your powder is in hoppers, and you have a little wiper in it – the piston moves up and down, you put powder into that and you write the product layer by layer.

‘What we’re doing is using a five-axis machine, something you would see on a machine shop floor. But instead of cutting into a block of metal, we’re adding material based on a pre-existing plan, building it layer by layer in a different way using standard geometry congruence approaches to build our components. This means we can build quite complicated parts, but more importantly, we can make very large components.’

University of Sheffield Professor of Computational Intelligence, George Panoutsos, said, ‘The scope of the work is two-fold, a) to use raw process data to develop mathematical models of process-part behaviours, and b) to use such models to further understand and optimise the manufacturing process itself.’

Creating a network to support companies evaluating the possibility of incorporating AM technology into their industrial processes, the project is expected to increase the reliability of AM processes by 40%. It is also expected to increase production and speed by 25% and provide a significantly change improve the quality of parts produced. The team envisages large-scale impacts across aeronautical, mechanical, automotive and civil construction sectors.