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'Hybrid' platform offers rare combination of additive and subtractive manufacturing

Professional Engineering

The hybrid platform switches between additive and subtractive manufacturing 'with a simple tool-change'
The hybrid platform switches between additive and subtractive manufacturing 'with a simple tool-change'

Small engineering companies can save money and access new markets thanks to a “completely new range of capabilities” offered by a rare combination of machining and additive manufacturing, a Scottish research centre has said.

The University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) claimed a first for Scotland after integrating laser metal deposition (LMD) technology with a CNC machine. The “unique” hybrid platform provides “an affordable way for SMEs (small or medium sized enterprises) to embrace additive manufacturing”, the AFRC said in an announcement.

“The LMD hybrid platform is a significant addition to the overall offering of the centre, allowing us to develop a completely new range of capabilities we can offer companies to help overcome manufacturing challenges,” said Stephen Fitzpatrick, machining and additive manufacturing leader at the centre.

Developed by AFRC partner Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies, the new technology can help companies access new markets by letting them add features to parts or remanufacture high value components and tooling.

Useful across sectors including aerospace and oil and gas, the platform allows subtraction and addition of metallic materials on one machine “with a simple tool-change”.

Integrating the technology within existing machines offers benefits including reduced investment, the centre said. The equipment also does rotational cladding, which can apply wear-resistant coating for high-performance aerospace components, for example.

During LMD, metal powder is projected into the path of a high-powered laser, melting onto a component or substrate in layers. It is frequently used for adding features to existing surfaces or building products up from scratch.  

The LMD hybrid platform is ideal for remanufacturing products that would otherwise be scrapped due to failures or wear over time, the centre said. The system can help prevent material waste and reduce manufacturing times and cost. It can also reportedly improve component performance and increase service life.

The AFRC’s technology is being used across a number of industry-focused research projects, including DigiTool, which seeks to “rejuvenate the UK tool and die sector through supporting the uptake of remanufacturing using digital technologies”.

The centre is hosting a free workshop on machining and additive manufacturing in August.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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