A cutting-edge project has the potential to save UK industry millions of pounds by re-manufacturing high-value components that would otherwise go for scrap.
The project, developed at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry, uses laser cladding, automated inspection and high-speed machining in a single, fully integrated re-manufacturing cell.
The technology enables manufacturers to repair and recycle worn, high-value components such as turbine blades to a consistently high quality.
As well as repairing damaged and worn parts, the process can be used to manufacture entirely new complex metal components, upgrade obsolete parts and reconfigure standard parts for low-volume applications.
MTC chief executive Clive Hickman said that all industrial sectors have a requirement for re-manufacturing, which contributes £5 billion to the UK economy, but that conventional processes were slow and labour intensive.
“The new process enables cost-effective, rapid and reliable re-manufacturing of high-value engineering parts. It can be fitted on to existing machine tools, and allows seamless transition between cladding, machining and inspection operations. There is no doubt that this technology – a world first for the MTC and its partners – will transform the whole process of re-manufacturing,” he added.
Patents are currently being filed and the technology is expected to make a big contribution to the efficiency of the aerospace, defence and power industries.
Partners in the re-manufacturing project include software developer Delcam, metrology equipment developer Renishaw, laser processing equipment manufacturer Electrox, CNC integration expert Precision Engineering Technologies, and turbocharger maker Cummins. Leicester DeMontfort University played a key role in the development of the laser cladding system.
The MTC is one of the Technology Strategy Board's “Catapult” centres of excellence, created to bridge the gap between business, academia, research and government. The centre was opened last year following a £40 million investment from the West and East Midlands development agencies.