A research team at the University of Bath has identified a gap in the market following a £7 million Open Architecture Additive Manufacturing (OAAM) project funded by Innovate UK and led by The Welding Institute (TWI), to manufacture large metallic components via Additive Manufacturing (AM) for the benefit of UK Aerospace. Working with project partners including Airbus and Autodesk, they developed Directed Energy Deposition (DED) AM technologies that can be scaled-up to accept multi-metre component sizes.

However, with the increasing ability of digital manufacturing to improve process performance there was an opportunity for smart, data-driven software to further develop the use of digital systems in the aerospace industry.

Stephen Newman, Professor of Innovative Manufacturing Technology, Dr Vimal Dhokia, Deputy Head of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr Fangda Xu, Research Associate, all from the Department of Mechanical Engineering have developed a novel ‘digital twin’ (AMtwin) system for Wire Arc Additive Manufacture (WAAM), an emerging large scale additive manufacturing process.

Their digital twin system seamlessly combines a data-driven simulation and statistical prediction system to provide a significantly more accurate estimation of the physical process, such as rapidly predicting geometric shapes for WAAM processes. Professor Newman says:

Our data-driven simulation enables a user to view simulation and predict results in near real-time, whereas physical based systems normally take anywhere from hours or days to generate satisfactory results. As our approach uses real experimental data, we can provide high fidelity accurate results.

Led by Professor Newman (Principal Investigator), the team has now successfully secured funding through ICURe (Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research) – a three-month discovery programme funded by Innovate UK to support Early-Career Researchers (ECRs) from research teams with commercial promise to reach the marketplace.

Dr Xu who is attending the ICURe Programme until March has now also secured a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowship, which supports ECRs involved in research being commercialised. He says:

Receiving ICURe funding certainly helped strengthen our case for a RAEng Enterprise Fellowship. We have been able to continually demonstrate the commercial potential of our research and more importantly the benefits to UK aerospace.

Dr Dhokia, Deputy Head of Mechanical Engineering, says:

WAAM technology deployed within the aerospace sector could significantly reduce material waste and scrap which will have a huge impact on the UK aviation industry. AMtwin will provide a new intelligent digital approach that can enable WAAM to perform optimally thereby increasing throughput whilst reduce rate of failure. There are approximately 77 tonnes of Titanium per Airbus A380 aircraft and 40% of all Titanium is used for aerospace globally, with a significant portion of this ending up as machined swarf. That’s huge and we hope to now see a significant reduction over time as WAAM becomes widely used along with our technology

Dr Ali Hadavizadeh, Technology Transfer Manager in Research and Innovation Services (RIS) at the University of Bath, supported the development of the ICURe proposal. He says:

We have had an extraordinary run of success with the ICURe Programme which is a reflection of the high-quality innovation we have seen coming out of the University labs. The AMtwin team has clearly demonstrated the market potential of their digital twin system and commercial pathway to the aerospace industry. They will be in a very strong position following the Programme to pitch for public funding or private investment.

ICURe event

The SETsquared ICURe Programme has an Energy and Environment Innovation Roundtable event 8.30-10.30 on Monday 14 February 2022 which you can register to attend. Key players from global and UK corporates will set out there energy and environmental challenges to establish opportunities for researchers and innovative start-ups to help solve these problems.

Further information

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