Start Date: June 2016 – June 2018
FlexiFinish focused on creating an automated hardware solution, with an accompanying knowledge base, for automating the surface finishing and shot peening of metal AM components for high-value manufacturing industries. Prior to this research and development project, manual processes were used in a majority of secondary finishing and surface treatment processes for these industries when producing parts using AM.
During the project, a system architecture was designed, built, and tested for automating secondary post-processing operations including part handling, surface inspection, and surface finishing. Hardware integration through PLC systems and creation of bespoke HMI software was completed, along with population of a knowledge-base for a range of finishing processes to enable automated process parameter selection.
A significant proportion of AM part costs and lead times can be attributed to secondary processing. In automating these activities, lead times and costs per AM part can be reduced as a single processing unit can be operated 24 hours a day, and with relatively low running costs a return on capital investment can be made in a 2-4 years through replacing shifts for multiple skilled labourers.
The MTC were responsible for integrating the various hardware systems through a PLC, and writing some bespoke software for operator control of the cell. They were also responsible for generating experimental data for the finishing knowledge base, and implementing the automatically generated toolpaths from project partner TTL.
MTC, TTL, Sandwell, ABB, JRI, Meggitt, GE Power