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The boundless benefits of additive manufacturing have the potential to transform many industries across the globe. The technology minimises design restrictions, overcomes design complexity and supports green manufacturing initiatives. However, there are a number of technical limitations that hinder its widespread commercial exploitation, particularly a lack of suitability of conventional CAD with the functional requirements. Small scale artefacts and dimensional inaccuracies are likely to occur in areas with sudden change in direction or excessive curvature.
This may render the manufactured part unusable, particularly in large structures requiring high accuracy or a well-defined surface finish.
The project aims to deliver a software add-on for major CAD/CAM packages in order to overcome the aforementioned limitations of additive manufacturing. The features of the add-on enable flexibility to manipulate structural properties through the micro-management of local geometry and path of a powder-dispensing tool.
The project identifies the complete set of micro-shapes (i.e. flings, curves, cones, micro-angles and corners) and digitises them as a part of CAD data, facilitating an easy access to the user. Thorough analysis is performed to consider the local material flow and fluid-dynamics effect on the formation of micro-shapes through local deposition model. This contributes towards a better understanding of micro-shape interaction with the surrounding area.
The software add-on will bring a great contribution to the manufacturing industry, including aerospace and automotive. Particularly manufacturers and renovators of high value and low volume parts will benefit from the technology immensely due the proximity of produced parts with the original geometry. This presents a great commercial opportunity because of the sheer scale of the manufacturing industry and accelerating annual growth of the additive manufacturing market. Not only will this venture create new jobs but it also presents new entrepreneurial opportunities and new incentives to invest in manufacturing.
The project is primarily funded by Innovate UK and the objectives are addressed by a consortium of the UK’s industrial and manufacturing experts.