21 September 2017 10:51

A new research chair at Lancaster University will seek to advance knowledge and technologies for the additive manufacturing of metals.

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, of plastics and other materials has evolved at great pace in recent years, making processes such as product development much cheaper and faster. Additive manufacturing using metals promises to deliver even greater benefits for the development of high quality products and components, as well as reducing waste.

Professor Pedro Rivera has been appointed to the newly-created position of LWP/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chain in ‘Alloy and microstructure design for additive layer manufacturing’.

“For thousands of years people have been dealing with hot and cold wrought alloys to make tools and other products and goods,” said Professor Rivera. “In all of that time items have been created using subtractive methods – where metal is gradually taken away until the manufacturer achieves the desired result.

“New technology is allowing us for the first time in history to create alloys by gradually adding layers of material, which opens up vast new opportunities for product development and promises to significantly save on resources when compared to subtractive methods.”

Professor Rivera will spearhead research into the design structure of alloys, optimising them for use in additive manufacturing.

This work will include developing statistical models that take account of powder size, composition and atmospheric conditions with component properties such as strength, ductility, hardness and corrosion. This work will lead to developing manufacturing parameters that enable additive manufacturing on an industrial scale.

“Conventional alloys used for additive manufacturing can be extremely sensitive to parameters such as oxygen content, where the variation is intrinsic to the process,” he said. “This research will create truly novel metal powders by controlling the microstructures and compositions so critical for high performing additive manufacturing-specific alloys.”

Understanding new techniques such as these will help maintain the UK’s position at the Global cutting-edge of high-quality, low volume manufacturing.

The new role has been supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering in partnership with a leading manufacturer, LWP Technology Ltd. As part of the partnership LPW will provide researchers with access to its world-class additive manufacturing PowderLab to undertake full characterisation of the metal powder alloys and material testing following component builds on its in-house metal additive manufacturing machines. LWP’s software tools will also provide the necessary data to inform the research goals.

Dr Phil Carroll, of LWP Technology Ltd, said: “In understanding how metal powder composition can affect the end material microstructure we can begin to design and create parts where the composition across the component varies. The opportunity to design localised properties in a single part opens up tremendous possibilities. Imagine high temperature aerospace parts where the exterior is hard whilst the interior is lightweight, prosthetic joints delivering surface biocompatibility with low density interiors.”

Professor Rivera joins Lancaster University’s Department of Engineering from the University of Cambridge where he was the Assistant Director of Research at Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy.

Professor Claudio Paoloni, Head of Lancaster University’s Department of Engineering, said: “I am delighted by the prestigious Research Chair position awarded to Professor Pedro Rivera by the Royal Academy of Engineering in partnership LWP Technology Ltd.

“Aligning with the Engineering Department’s strategy to pioneer technologies in advanced manufacturing, this appointment further demonstrates how academia and industry can work together at the highest scientific level in cutting edge research.”