Fri, 31 March, 2023
Three, engineering technologies-focused consortia, comprising UK-based SMEs and RTOs, have recently scored successes in UK competitions, winning grant (also known as ‘public’) funding for novel projects in the transport industry. Projects ‘HEAT-AM’ and ‘NanoTi’ were awarded monies for solutions planned for the aerospace sector, while ‘EMPHASISING’ won funding for a wind energy-to-automotive sectors project.
Each project achieved its successful bid with the support of TWI’s Technology Innovation Management (TIM) team, whose members work with TWI Innovation Network and Industrial Members, TWI Innovation Centres, SMEs, premier universities, forward thinking organisations and TWI technical experts – to facilitate collaboration on novel projects proposals – for submission to UK and European public funding calls for research and development (R&D).
From assistance with ideation and partner matching through to finance requirements and assessment of project viability, the TIM team is there to support innovative companies and organisations with the collaborative development of new products, systems, services and technologies. Importantly, this ensures that each project addresses industrial demand, and is conceived with the long-term of view of future commercialisation for market entry.
HEAT-AM stands for ‘High Entropy Alloys (HEAs) for Targeted Additive Manufacturing Aerospace Applications.’ This project aims to develop computer-assisted alloy design approaches in additive manufacturing (AM), to significantly reduce cost and lead-time for new alloy development. The new approaches are intended to replace current, conventional, trial and error methods of design, which can result in alloys being susceptible to cracking and detrimental processes such as porosity formation and oxidation, all of which prevent practical implementation in AM.
HEAs are defined as alloys containing five or more principal elements with random occupation. When used in aerospace applications, it is essential that HEAs are lightweight with low thermal conductivity and radiation resistance. This makes it imperative to exploit feasible alloying systems, to address the bottleneck of material constraints that currently exists when seeking to advance the technological aspects AM for aerospace. Therefore, HEAT-AM will look at novel, conceptual, HEAs as a possible solution to the issue, utilising CALPHAD (CALculation of PHAse Diagrams) and machine learning to achieve its objectives.
The project partners for HEAT-AM are Metal Powder Emergence Limited (MPE), who is also the Lead Partner, LSN Diffusion (LSN) and the Materials Innovation Centre (University of Leicester).
HEAT-AM secured funding through the ‘NATEP helping SMEs innovate in aerospace’ competition which is held approximately every 6 months. Funding is awarded through Innovate UK, working with the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). NATEP looks for innovative technologies such as zero-carbon emission and ultra-efficient aircraft, and cross-cutting enabling technologies in the civil aerospace sector.
NanoTi, Grain Refinement of Ti-6Al-4V Wire to Enable Aerospace Directed Energy Deposition (DED) Additive Manufacturing, focuses on accelerating the development of advanced titanium wires to enable large-scale additive manufacturing (AM) for the aerospace sector. Airframe fabricators use large, machined, titanium components. During this process, large quantities of low-value swarf and fine chips are produced, and these must be recycled through energy-intensive and environmentally costly processes. AM of large components, e.g. 25+kg in weight, is done by DED using wire or powder feedstock, reducing metal consumption in the airframe business, and lowering costs and environmental impact.
Ti6Al4V alloy is the most widely used alloy for airframe fabricators, however, it suffers from inter-pass columnar grain growth when deposited using DED-AM. This severely reduces its mechanical performance. Small additions of grain growth modifiers can offer a solution but the issue has been in creating a suitable, low-cost, feedstock material that can deliver this. Nano-Ti partner Epoch Wires Limited has developed a unique wire production approach that can finely and reliably offer such a production method. Therefore, the project will produce and evaluate a range of doped wires, using several AM methods including robotic plasma arc, DED laser beam and DED electron beam, to establish their 'AM-ability’, potentially offering the aerospace sector a key input into unlocking the full potential of AM for aircraft manufacture.
The project partners are Epoch Wires Limited and TWI Laser Additive Manufacturing, Electron Beam, Arc Welding Engineering sections). NanoTi also secured fund through the ‘NATEP helping SMEs innovate in aerospace’ competition.
EMPHASIZING, described as 'Enhancing Material Properties of Recycled Glass Fibres Through Sizing', targets the wind energy-to-automotive sectors to address the challenge of recycling composite structures currently landfilled or incinerated. The project will introduce low-cost, high-quality and high yield, reclaimed fibres into automotive production, and develop a viable value chain to exploit the resulting recyclates, i.e., upcycled glass fibres for subsequent lifecycles.
Some 2.5m tonnes of composite material are currently used globally in the renewable energy sector, with glass fibre reinforced plastic (GRP) representing the vast majority of the £54.5 billion global market for composites.. Over one million tonnes of GRP are produced annually in Europe, with almost 70% of that arising from the construction, infrastructure and transport sectors. Today, tonnes of composite waste containing valuable glass fibres has accumulated, the growing use of which causes increasing concern due to the associated waste disposal methods. This makes it imperative to find a cost-effective methodology, with minimal environmental impact, for the recycling of composite waste and, ideally, the upcycling of glass composite waste.
EMPHASIZING will demonstrate the circular economy concept by fabricating automotive end-products made from upcycled glass fibre materials. The methodology will introduce ‘pressolysis’, a novel new recovery method and technical step change from state-of-the-art processes such as pyrolysis and solvolysis which, in turn, will enable commercial innovation through high-yield reclamation of top-quality, clean, free from residue, reusable fibres, with retained length and properties almost akin to virgin materials. Through innovative re-sizing, the aim is for these fibres to take on properties similar to carbon and a cost closer to glass.
The project partners are Lead Partner B. & M. Longworth (Edgworth) Limited, Gen2plank Limited, EMS-CHEMIE (UK) LTD, Ford Technologies Limited, Gestamp, the Brunel Composites Centre (Brunel University London) and TWI (Advanced Composites and Adhesives section).
EMPHASIZING secured funding through an Innovate UK Smart Grant. These look to fund the best game-changing and commercially viable, innovative or disruptive ideas.
Speaking about the achievements of the three consortia in winning the grant funding for their respective projects, Sally Shi, Public Funding & Innovation Network Specialist at TWI, said “Each of the consortiums submitted a project proposal that was strong enough to make it stand out amongst other bids, and this is essential because, effectively, bidding for a share of grant distribution is a highly competitive activity.” Going on to explain, “Each of the winning proposals was supported by the TIM team, including helping to identify and bring together suitable project partners with complementary expertise, and then working with them to continually evaluate the bid document and hone it prior to submission.” “Therefore, I am delighted for the consortia involved and wish them a great R&D journey ahead.”
Photo top of page shows the NanoTi project.