An Innovate UK sponsored research project headed up by Croft Additive Manufacturing and including Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and surface finishing experts, Fintek, has resulted in the production of a new stream finishing machine which features OTEC- patented pulse drive technology.
The new machine recently arrived at Fintek, the UK aerospace component surface finishing specialists. It will help to meet the growing demand for the ever more precise profile tolerances required in the aerospace industry.
“The technology, known as ‘Pulsfinish’ will make a considerable difference to mass finishing.” claims Operations Manager of Fintek, Jamie Phillips.
Producing a rapid relative motion and changing the direction of rotation with speed allows Pulsfinish to increase finishing forces with high-speed acceleration and deceleration, enabling it to deburr accurately and evenly round and smooth surfaces from Rpk 0.2µm to 0.1µm – all in under 60 seconds.
The ability to provide accurate processes that embed consistent component surface finishing quality is crucial to aerospace parts manufacturers, and this machine will ensure this is possible. It is expected that pulse finishing will be of great value not only to aerospace customers, but to those clients who work in the automotive, motorsport, and medical device industries as well.
Additionally, Pulsfinish will also contribute to the mass finishing of components that have been produced using additive manufacturing.
Additive Manufacturing in Surface Finishing
The design freedom of Additive Manufacturing, where a component is constructed layer by layer, allows for increased geometric complexity in the component and other added values such as light weighting.
However, the layer by layer manufacture also delivers challenges in that the as-built part is near net shape and the surface finish is rougher than that of a subtractive machined part. Together, the increased part complexity and the surface roughness of the part create new challenges for finishing to specific surface roughness.
Surface finish specialists such as Fintek have taken metal AM parts – here stainless steel 316L – and trialled their finishing techniques, as they would for conventional SS316L, and found that the parts do not finish in the same way.
This is partly because the surface finish can be different on different facets on an AM part. In Croft’s study, Croft AM trialled test AM parts to deliver the least surface roughness, and Fintek trialled their finishing process to obtain an optimal finish for metal AM components.
Metal AM components present challenges in surface finishing due to as-built surface finish and increased part complexity.
Louise Geekie, Director at Croft Additive Manufacturing, says, “In our study, Croft AM worked to optimise as-built AM component surface finish, and Fintek worked towards optimisation of finishing processes manufactures.
“Fintek utilised the innovative stream finishing process which had pulse drive technology to overcome part complexity and deliver an improved surface finish, which supports industrial adoption of metal AM components.”
The Growth in Additive Manufacturing
According to Statista, the value of the additive manufacturing or 3D printing sector will reach $20.5 billion by 2020.
The world-wide additive manufacturing market is predicted to move from prototyping to mass production of parts and accessories over the next decade. And by 2030, it’s believed that AD technology will enable manufacturing companies to produce goods on a large scale.
Already, the availability and accessibility of 3D printing tools are making it easier for companies from all backgrounds to unlock the benefits of AM for themselves. According to PWC surveys, two-thirds of manufacturers are already using AM in their processes.
However, to truly make the most of this new concept, companies need more than just the right technology. The designers and engineers in a manufacturing space need to begin thinking beyond the constraints of traditional manufacturing processes when it comes to solving complex problems.