Tuesday, May 30, 2017

News: AMRC invents game-changing hybrid 3D printing process

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Engineers at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing have developed a unique hybrid 3D printing process.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, the AMRC is a world leading model partnership between industry and academia that focuses on advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors. Its Design and Prototyping Group, which includes the Medical AMRC, develop everything from conceptual designs, to fully functional prototypes for a range of industries.

The group has developed a patent-pending process it calls "THREAD" where electrical, optical and structural elements can be introduced throughout an additively manufactured component as it is being made.

It has so far been successfully demonstrated on machines used for 3D printing polymer components and will be an advantage in the manufacture of components requiring encapsulated electronics. Components such as those used in medical prosthetics, consumer electronics or structural components that require electrical connections and until now, would have been secured externally to the component.

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In the medical sector, the introduction of digital monitoring systems to implants could pave the way for real-time diagnosis that prevents contamination and provides a more accurate way to monitor the condition of artificial prosthetics.

In the aerospace sector, integrating remote real-time data services would enable the continuous monitoring of vital aerospace components such as wing parts, fuel ducts and engine systems. This could allow for more accurate insight into the condition of costly and advanced equipment.

Mark Cocking, AMRC development engineer and AM specialist, said: "THREAD has scope to simultaneously add multiple industry-recognised threads of differing materials into one component, giving the component additional functions. This will open AM up to a greater variety of uses.

"The development of this process is a potential game-changer. It could be used across many sectors such as medical, aerospace and automotive; where weight and size of components is critical or where components would benefit from integrated data transfer and the protection of sealed connective tracks."

"THREAD has potential to be developed as an add-on technology for existing AM platforms and also incorporated into next generation AM technologies."

Re-thinking the design process, the AMRC are further developing the THREAD process and technology for various commercial markets.

Chris Iveson, who is driving the commercialisation of the technology, said: "We see THREAD transforming the functionality of additively manufactured components. Feedback from our contacts in various industries indicates a real need for this capability, with new potential applications being discussed daily. This is a great example of the AMRC using its unique expertise to solve real industry problems."

AMRC website

Images: AMRC


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