Delegates from across Europe travelled to TWI’s Cambridge headquarters at the end of 2016 for a one-day event revealing the latest developments in powder metallurgy.
‘Advances in particulate engineering for defence, safety and security applications’ was organised by two Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) committees: Particulate Engineering and Defence, Safety and Security.
The day featured speakers from across the powder industry, including specialists in additive manufacturing, non-destructive testing (NDT) and material characterisation and qualification. Additive manufacturing was also one of the event's key themes: specifically how this increasingly popular manufacturing technique has the potential to benefit the defence and security industry.
Following an introduction by Particulate Engineering Committee (PEC) Chairman Dr Cem Selcuk, The first speaker on the agenda was TWI Associate Director Dr Richard Freeman, who also serves as industry sector manager for aerospace.
Richard shared with the audience his insight into the development of a Nadcap audit checklist for laser and electron beam additive manufacturing, which had been a collaborative undertaking led by experts from across the aerospace industry.
Richard’s talk highlighted the importance of standardisation and stringent quality control, especially at a time when the additive manufacturing industry is experiencing huge growth.
With areas of assessment including the quality of powder feedstock, the forthcoming Nadcap audits will have implications for supply chain considerations for any supplier to the aerospace and defence industries. Audits are expected to begin as soon as this April.
The day’s second presentation was given by Executive Director of the European Powder Metallurgy Association (EPMA), Dr Lionel Aboussouan. Lionel gave an overview of the current state of the European powder metallurgy industry, covering trends, opportunities and emerging technologies. He made frequent reference to the EPMA Vision 2025 document, which sets out a roadmap for the industry for the coming years.
Following a break, Cem Sapmaz of Nurol Technology, based in Ankara, presented on particulate applications for end users in the defence industry. His talk revealed how Nurol had been able to incorporate particulate materials such as boron carbide, silicon carbide and aluminium oxide into ballistics ceramics. The company has also been using nanotechnology to further hone the characteristics of its products.
Cem’s presentation included many fascinating photographs showing the results of field tests. He used these to highlight the importance of particulate characteristics such as particle size, distribution and morphology, as well as chemistry and purity levels, in achieving a product with a homogeneous microstructure and good mechanical properties.
The morning’s final session saw Dr Mihai Iovea of Romania’s Accent Pro 2000 (AP2K) take to the stage. Mihai’s company has developed bespoke NDT solutions for powder metallurgy, including in-line X-ray digital imaging scanners capable of surveying parts on the fly.
With inspection systems combining microfocus X-ray tubes and AP2K’s own image enhancement and analysis software, the company’s NDT products are configured for automatic defect detection. An image resolution of five microns ensures even the smallest flaws are picked up.
Much of the technological advancement shown by AP2K was the result of European-funded collaborative projects, illustrating the value of the European Commission’s support in generating innovation.
After a lunchtime meal and networking break, during which the attendees gathered for a group photo in front of the world’s first friction stir welded plane, which sits on display outside TWI’s headquarters, the programme resumed.
First up was Dr Jason Dawes from Coventry’s Manufacturing Technology Centre. Presenting on qualifying powders for additive manufacturing, Jason underlined the importance of using a good-quality powder feedstock – not only to promote manufacturing efficiency and output, but also to safeguard the ultimate structural integrity and quality of the finished parts.
The importance of using quality powder was echoed in the next presentation, given by the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s Dr James Hunt. James spoke of the link between powder variability and process efficiency, including a mention of how unwanted moisture in powder feedstocks can lead to the creation of parts exhibiting low ductility.
Discussions after the talk raised the point that, with the growing demand from the additive manufacturing industry for feedstock, now is a good time for new powder suppliers to enter the market who can offer bespoke products that meet specific additive manufacturing needs.
The next presentation moved the focus from powder feedstock onto material characterisation. Dr Hiroto Kitaguchi from the University of Birmingham revealed the results of work he had been carrying out for the aerospace sector to develop nickel-based superalloys that combine very high strength with exceptional high-temperature performance. The presentation provided an interesting insight into how thermal history can affect the microstructure of a material.
The final speaker at the event was Istvan Szabo, based at the Brunel Innovation Centre at TWI. Istvan presented on smart non-destructive testing methods for powder metallurgy parts. His work at BIC has focused on using digital radiography and computed tomography, which he showed have the potential to form part of a fully integrated system providing total coverage of manufactured components as part of a production process.
After the conclusion of the day’s presentations, delegates were offered tours of TWI and BIC’s facilities. A final refreshment break and networking opportunity gave everyone a chance to discuss potential inter-country collaborations, showing the value in bringing a diverse range of organisations together under a common interest at informative but informal events such as this.
To find out more about the work of IOM3’s Particulate Engineering Committee, visit the committee page on the IOM3 website.
TWI’s additive manufacturing capabilities are detailed on our dedicated additive manufacturing website. To find out more, contact us.