- New partnership involves major engineering firms, academic leaders and start ups
- Major funding awarded to increase WAAM productivity and enter high volume steel industries including construction and mining
UK – A new academic-industrial partnership has been launched to pursue a leading-edge 3D-printing technology that will seek to achieve previously unattainable scales, velocities and manufacturing efficiencies through additive manufacturing.
The project, known as HPWAAM, brings together seven specialist organisations and has received £1.2m of funding from Innovate UK (part of UK Research and Innovation, driving productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses). The collaboration commences using seminal research carried out by Cranfield University as a basis to develop a novel solution for a UK industrial sector. It is estimated that the global Additive Manufacturing market is estimated to be worth over £30bn by 2035 (1).
This business-led, commercially focused project involves a powerful consortium to deliver ambitious technology targets and will support an industry-focused ecosystem for the wide-spread adoption of Additive Manufacturing in applications such as construction and resource industries. HPWAAM stands for High Productivity Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (Detailed in the background section below).
The organisations committed to the HPWAAM project are:
- BOC – a member of the Linde Group, is a leading industrial gas provider
- Cranfield University – a wholly postgraduate university based in Bedfordshire
- Foster + Partners – an international design studio
- Steelo – a lean manufacturer of construction systems
- WAAM3D – a spin-off company from Cranfield University
- Weir Group – a global mining equipment leader
- Wintwire – a specialist SME wire manufacturer
A spokesperson for the consortium said: “This project is an exciting opportunity to focus on the distinct research capabilities of our partners, towards developing an economically feasible way of printing large scale, complex designs at entirely new speeds. The critical funding provided by Innovate UK reflects the credibility of the project as well as our ambition to create future value for our partners and the wider UK economy. 3D printing has proven numerous benefits over traditional processes in terms of speed, design, sustainability and cost. This research will explore the next generation of solutions that High Productivity Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing can unlock. We are grateful for the full support of all our partners as we embark on the next chapter of additive manufacturing.”
WAAM3D Press Office
BACKGROUND: ABOUT ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING
Additive Manufacturing (AM) technologies build objects directly from 3D model data, layer upon layer. Powder-based process variants are better suited for small but complicated objects, and leverage on their freedom of design to produce highly optimised components. Wire-based methods, however, are capable of producing much larger objects. The seminal work carried out by UK-based Cranfield University, started as far back as the mid-2000s. The findings have demonstrated that Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) can deliver considerably shorter lead times and reduce material waste compared to other traditionally established processes, such as subtractive manufacturing, casting or fabrication.
Today, additive manufacturing has been adopted by a large number of healthcare and aerospace companies but is a very small part of the metals industry. It is however growing rapidly and is expected to be worth as much as £30bn in 2035. The HPWAAM project, which started in November 2020 and has received £1.2m of funding from Innovate UK, will take the WAAM process to the next level of industrialisation. The main objective is to increase the productivity of the WAAM process, to reduce part building time and costs further. Moreover, build strategies and approaches will be improved to achieve a higher level of resolution in the WAAM components, without compromising integrity and productivity. Together with fundamental process development, both these goals will require hardware and software innovation, especially in the fields of sensing, power delivery, and data preparation intelligence. Such new tools will be used to demonstrate the capabilities of HPWAAM for production of massive components, applicable to a large number of industry sectors, including mining, energy, and construction.
PARTNERS & ROLES
This business led, commercially focused project requires a broad consortium to deliver its ambitious targets and to create an industry-focused ecosystem for the wide-spread adoption of AM in large scale applications.
- BOC, a member of the Linde Group, is a leading industrial gas provider. BOC will lead the process development for global thermal control using cryogenic cooling and the development of a cryogenic cooling equipment package.
- Cranfield University, a wholly postgraduate university based in Bedfordshire, has 15 years’ experience of research into WAAM, and is leading HPWAAM process and equipment development, as well as supporting demonstrator parts building.
- Foster + Partners, an international design studio featuring innovative design and research in construction, is leading the HPWAAM process and system specification phase, providing optimised designs for construction applications and evaluating them.
- Steelo, an innovative SME, is a lean manufacturer of construction systems. Using their existing WAAM system, they are investigating lattice structures and evaluating HPWAAM for construction applications.
- WAAM3D is a spin-off company from Cranfield University, and is providing WAAM systems, software and services. WAAM3D will upgrade their software for adaptable resolution and integrate the new HPWAAM process knowledge into their intelligent parameters calculation packages, which provide process information during the data preparation. WAAM3D is leading the project exploitation, also taking HPWAAM to other industry sectors.
- Weir Group, a global mining equipment leader, is project coordinator, and are leading the work of design of HPWAAM products, HPWAAM system evaluation though demonstrator building and evaluation. global.weir
- Finally, Wintwire, a specialist SME wire manufacturer, is providing high quality shaped wires needed for HPWAAM. Wintwire will supply novel wires for HPWAAM process studies and demonstrator manufacturing.
The consortium will also assess the suitability of the WAAM process to repair and remanufacture large metallic components, as well as the impact of shorter supply chains enabled by the WAAM process. Indeed, a much more local approach to manufacture is now envisaged, with WAAM systems available on construction sites, oil rigs, or alongside mining sites. Such a paradigm shift is posed to reduce the environmental footprint of metallic part production, as well as mitigating the effect of the inherently lengthy transportation legs associated with traditional manufacturing approaches.