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Lifting the lid on innovation: exploratory projects at TWI

Back to Media and Events 2013-07-creepimage-inspecting-creep-damage-in-critical-power-plant-components 2016-09-cutting-edge-technology-for-nuclear-decommissioning A career in welding inspection Additive manufactured medical implants to enter mainstream Additive Manufacturing UK Strategy update available for download Advanced electron beam facilities meet advanced industrial challenges Advanced ultrasonic full matrix capture inspection software launched Armourers & Brasiers' awards open for entries Art exhibition leads to new method of laser metal deposition Asbestos detection made easier and more reliable ASME issues White Paper on auditing of welding Audit shows TWI as integral to innovation Aviation Industry Corporation of China collaborates with TWI BeamAssure™ – electron beam welding quality assurance tool Best practice for nuclear construction industry welding BS 7910:2013 - Assessing flaws in metallic structures Call for papers: 12th International FSW Symposium CII and TWI awareness seminar in composites technology Coatings and surface engineering: addressing the needs of industry Combatting ice and erosion in extreme low temperatures - EIROS Combining Cathodic Protection with Aluminium Coatings CROWN project commended for offshore wind corrosion work Depositing silicon carbide coatings by thermal spraying Digital Twin Technology to monitor offshore assets Digital twin technology wins environmental business award Dr Melissa Riley presents paper at international conference Dr Melissa Riley represents TWI at international conference eLearning package for CSWIP 3.1 Welding Inspector launched Entry is now open for SkillWeld 2016 Extending Aircraft Life Using Cold Spray Technology Fibre delivered laser beam cutting optimisation Friction stir welding – joining the future of industry Friction stir welding and Japanese jewellery Government funds £10 million technology hub in Teesside Has your PCN NDT Certification been voided? TWI Can Help… Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal opens new laboratories at TWI High-pressure hydrogen testing at TWI Ice-repellant coating for aerospace and energy industries Industry benefits of composites microwave processing Innovation Centres at TWI deliver progress for industry INTRAPID produces rapid in-line laser AM inspection systems Introducing the TWI Virtual Academy: studying on your own terms Investigating geothermal coatings for the future of renewable energy Laser scanner improves TWI weld analysis services for Members Lasers for decommissioning: the story so far Lifting the lid on innovation: exploratory projects at TWI Lord Heseltine opens new TWI technology and training centre Meeting reinvigorates Welding Institute's Liverpool branch Mike Russell appointed as TWI Operations Director 'Mind the doors' – New project investigates train door failure Mobile electron beam welds for fabricating large structures ModuLase - combining laser processes for the future of manufacturing MoU between ALFED and TWI enhances collaboration Nanosecond pulsed laser expands opportunities for project work NDT Voiding of PCN certification from NDT International New benefit for TWI Members: free access to Welding Abstracts journal New building to house TWI's structural integrity expertise New centre for Advanced Manufacturing Technologies launched New eBooks added for Professional and Industrial Members New facility for testing the barrier performance of polymers New fracture testing accreditation New Granta Centre manager guarantees premier conferencing New home and new capabilities for TWI in Middlesbrough New manufacturing process supports Hayter's winning position New sensor technology for safe shale gas extraction funded New TWI article breaks down the changes to ISO 15614-1 New ultrasonic testing courses from the TWI Virtual Academy New welding apprenticeship standards receive government approval Novel solution for submersible pumps in oil and gas industry Open Day sparks the start of a new era of research for TWI Pioneering tests being conducted on bespoke TWI rig Plant Inspection training meets need for competent workers Plastics welding experts answer your questions at Aquaculture UK 2014 Progressing graphene as a supercritical fluid barrier Project investigates Powder Metallurgy for astrospace use Purpose-built pressure testing facility opens for business at TWI Purpose-built pressure testing facility to be constructed at TWI Registration opens for TWI BS EN ISO 15614-1 (2017) training RJD Engineering gains Factory Production Control system Certification Rolls-Royce's Martin Boyd discusses the benefits of becoming an IEng Showing expertise in corrosion safety, investigation and assessment Simulating real-world conditions for oil and gas research Skills Development Fund Scheme provides extra TWI courses SkillWeld medallist goes on to take gold at EuroSkills 2016 SOCAR and TWI celebrate new competence training partnership Success for TWI's first blended learning course candidates Successful engineers graduate from EWF/IIW Diploma in Welding 'SUPERSLAB' to meet thicker high-strength steels challenge SurFlow: secure, robust, integrated data transfer through composites Symposium highlights developments in linear friction welding Taking the next step as a CSWIP Welding Inspector Tate Modern use solvent technology for art restoration Teletest business transfers to Eddyfi Technologies The 50-year view of fracture The Transport Systems Catapult and TWI Announce Partnership The Welding Institute Annual Awards and Dinner 2017 The Welding Institute Awards 2018 – Applied Technology Award The Welding Institute promoting career development at NECR exhibition True Stress-True Strain Tensile Testing to Failure TWI and Lloyd's Register launch Fullagar Technologies initiative TWI and Lloyd's Register projects advance take-up of AM TWI celebrates National Women in Engineering Day TWI CEO Christoph Wiesner awarded OBE TWI combines heritage with innovation for the Morgan Motor Company TWI commence 'SubSeaLase' decommissioning project TWI delivers plastics welding training course to Fusion Marine TWI develops essential metallography training to ensure best practice TWI enters research centre agreement with AECC BIAM, China TWI helping UK businesses to 'Access India' TWI helps bring Philips Avent's thermoplastic nebulizer to market TWI helps Engineering College meet industry demand for staff TWI holds successful cold spray technology course TWI hosts graduation ceremony for EWF/IIW Diploma engineers TWI joins 'Integral' nuclear waste project TWI lands NDA innovation award for nuclear decommissioning TWI launches course for advanced digital radiography TWI pioneers 'invisible weld' process TWI Pioneers New Dissimilar Weld for European Space Agency TWI rewards outstanding undergraduate engineering projects TWI signs Memorandum of Understanding with Saudi Aramco TWI Supports Underwater Laser Cutting Project TWI Technology Fellow given Visiting Professorship at LSBU TWI Training success story - Vera Dragoi TWI wins RIBA Awards TWI working to progress composites in the automotive industry TWI's Dr Philippa Moore: A role model for female engineers TWI's Dr Shiladitya Paul called as guest editor of Coatings journal Ultrasonic imaging climbing robot passes field trials Update on CPD for Welding Institute Professional Members Vince Cable India visit promotes UK business successes Welding Institute Annual Awards 2018 Welding Institute's latest Engineering Council registrants Welding the unweldable: TWI friction stir welds ODS steel WindTwin project to revolutionise wind turbine technology Workshop to address dissimilar materials joining challenge World's largest linear friction welded component produced World's most precise weld made at TWI
12 October 2016
Power cables joined using a technique developed as part of a TWI exploratory research project
Power cables joined using a technique developed as part of a TWI exploratory research project

TWI is first and foremost a research organisation, investigating innovative concepts with the aim of developing improvements to processes and technologies for the benefit of our Industrial Members.

Of all the types of research that take place here, the most eclectic and experimental projects can be found in our exploratory programme. This article will introduce this strand of research, and describe some of its notable recent developments.

Types of research at TWI

Over the years our commitment to research has led to breakthroughs in many, diverse areas. Notable achievements include conducting the world’s first gas-assisted laser cut in 1967, inventing friction stir welding in 1991 and, over the last couple of years, developing full matrix capture, an advanced form of phased array ultrasonic testing, from proof of concept to commercial readiness.

Research at TWI takes several forms. Our core research programme, funded to the tune of £4 million using 50 per cent of our Membership fees, encompasses more than 50 projects each year. These projects are driven by the needs of our Members; results are published as Industrial Member reports, available exclusively to Members of TWI.

We also carry out and frequently lead publicly funded projects, most often in collaboration with other research organisations and businesses. Usually funded by the European Union or UK-based programmes such as Innovate UK, these projects seek to develop new and existing technologies, for environmental or economic gain.

Joint industry projects see us coordinate small groups of sponsors, often from within our Membership, to seek a solution to a shared problem. Pooling resources in this way allows everyone involved to reap the benefits of substantial research without having to bear the expense of conducting it singlehandedly. Then there are single client projects – confidential research carried out for individual Members. These are focused investigations tackling specific problems – the consultancy side of TWI’s business.

Separate to all of these strands of research is our exploratory research programme. This is where the ethos of innovation at TWI is most vividly represented, where our scientists and engineers are given the freedom to explore completely new ideas. Some may never progress beyond the concept stage, but others will be explored, fleshed out and assessed for viability; a small number may even grow into truly disruptive technologies.

Current areas of exploratory research

Around 40 exploratory projects are begun every year, under the headings of metal processing, non-metal processing, materials characterisation, materials testing and structural assessment.

Here we will summarise ten projects from the last 12 months; many are still ongoing, but each has already shown potential to bring tangible benefits to TWI Members. In the next Connect, we will explore one of these projects in more detail, recounting the challenges involved, explaining the chosen approach and describing the developed solution, in a technical article available exclusively to Members of TWI.

Laser metal deposition manufacturing

Although additive manufacture is seeing widespread adoption across industry, there remains no dedicated software for one of its most promising variants, laser metal deposition (LMD). TWI’s Yorkshire-based additive manufacturing team developed new computer-aided manufacturing software to plug this gap, along with a specialised five-axis control plug-in to allow creation of complex parts using a three-axis LMD nozzle in coordination with a two-axis CNC rotary table.

Electron beam additive manufacturing

Already having led to a patent, work on this project continues to develop the potential of electron beam melting, a form of additive manufacturing that uses an electron beam as a heat source to create parts with properties comparable to wrought material. The patent granted is for a novel electron beam gun that extracts electrons from a radio frequency-excited plasma, sidestepping the wear issues affecting traditional electron guns.

Thick-section aluminium friction stir welding

Twenty-five years on from its invention, friction stir welding (FSW) continues to offer opportunities for new and improved methods of fabrication. This latest work is exploring simultaneous double-sided FSW, which has the potential to weld thick-section aluminium in a single pass, drastically reducing the time required compared to the established weld-flip-weld technique.

Cable joining

Power cables’ unique structure has hindered the development of an efficient and effective method of joining them together. TWI has been experimenting with a new technique, based on friction stir spot welding, which promises to overcome these issues. We have already lodged a patent application and continue to refine this technology.

Examination of weld root features

This research established the cause of very shallow crack-like features occasionally found at the weld root of duplex and super duplex stainless steels. As part of the investigation TWI developed a finite element analysis model, which we used to perform thermal and stress analyses of the flaw. This led to the discovery that the flaws were a result of local tensile strain at the root.

Development of an app for calculating fugacity

Fugacity plays a major role in thermodynamic calculations, particularly at high pressures, where deviation from ideal gas behaviour becomes more likely. With companies in the oil and gas sector increasingly seeking to conduct tests in conditions that simulate high-pressure service, calculating fugacity has become an important requirement. TWI developed a web-based software tool to help its Members quickly and easily achieve this, for a variety of gases and fluids.

Testing of polymers in aggressive environments

Sometimes exploratory projects aim to improve technologies that already exist. In this project, TWI further enhanced methods of monitoring the effects of exposure of non-metals to harsh environments. One of these is permeation testing, which has been developed further to include corrosive gases at elevated pressures, water vapour, hydrocarbons (up to C8) and seawater. TWI now has facilities to apply differential scanning calorimetry and mechanical testing to assess changes in the material. Members are already benefiting from these advancements, which are now being used in single client and joint industry projects.

Hot testing of thermally sprayed aluminium

Thermally sprayed aluminium (TSA) is a well-established method of coating steels for corrosion protection, with potential for use on pipelines transporting hot fluids from oil and gas wells. However, a current lack of design codes and standards for use of TSA on hot components is limiting its take-up. This project has involved experiments to ascertain the applicability of existing standards and to understand the mechanisms affecting hot components coated with TSA.

Integrity management software

TWI’s CrackWISE software is widely used across industry to automate the fracture and fatigue assessment procedures found in BS 7910 for engineering critical assessment. The latest evolution has moved beyond the content of BS 7910, and now incorporates TWI’s specialist knowledge in this area. IntegriWISE, fitness-for-service assessment software, was also updated in this project, being expanded to include corrosion assessment to a DNV standard. These software packages continue to evolve according to the needs of industry.

Development of a corrosion-monitoring tool using pulsed eddy current technology

This project has been exploring the possibility of using pulsed eddy current technology for corrosion monitoring. So far a new pulse generator has been designed and built, capable of generating high-amplitude current with variable pulse width. This is housed in a custom frame, designed to provide 360-degree coverage of the outer surface of a pipe, and controlled using a LabVIEW virtual interface. Work is ongoing to refine the tool and move it towards market readiness.

Future plans

The above ten summaries are the highlights, but together they make up less than a quarter of the total number of projects currently underway as part of TWI’s exploratory research programme.

Articles exploring these projects in depth will be published in subsequent issues of TWI’s newsletter, Connect, beginning next time with a closer look at how TWI has evolved friction stir welding to the point where it is now capable of joining thick sections of aluminium in a single pass.

To find out more about TWI’s research programmes, visit the research and innovation page, or contact us.

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