Development of 3D simulation of water assisted injection moulding of polymers guided and validated by experimentation using an instrumented process

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: College of Engineering


Water assisted injection moulding (WAIM) is a relatively new manufacturing process offering significant advantages over existing technology, including: increased productivity; energy efficiency; and new, more cost-effective manufacturing routes for certain types of product including structural components. Realized applications are however still scarce and the potential of the technology remains to be exploited. The reasons are uncertainty about outcomes, a lack of fundamental understanding, and the absence of predictive capabilities through computer simulations. This project brings together a team with a unique combination of capabilities to overcome these limitations to the full exploitation of the technology. Cinpres Gas Injection Ltd. has world-leading technology for fluid assisted moulding, including robust water assist methods. As in-kind project contributions they will manufacture and commission a modular test tool, and screen materials for WAIM suitability. Cinpres, Schulman Polymers and Birkby's Plastics will provide materials. Cinpres will loan gas and water injection and control equipment for mounting on a moulding machine at the Interdisciplinary Research Centre in Polymer Science and Technology at the University of Bradford, where extensive moulding trials will be carried out, building on their previous experience with WAIM and expertise in process monitoring, including the use of ultra-sound for real-time location of interfaces. Classical and on-line rheometry of chosen test materials will also be carried out, and related to material screening results. Moulding trials will inform and guide mathematical modelling of the process at the Centre for Polymer Processing Simulation and Design at the University of Wales Swansea, and provide insights into the fundamentals of the process. Based on these, software for 3-dimensional simulations will be developed at Swansea, building on their earlier highly successful 3-d software for gas assisted moulding. Cinpres have overcome problems that affected earlier work on WAIM and their expertise will be invaluable in guiding the project. Availability of their equipment will ensure productive and timely moulding trials at Bradford, extending their earlier work to include the latest technology development without capital costs to the Research Council. The IRC at Bradford has an international reputation and is the leading centre in the UK for polymer engineering research. The work of the Centre for Polymer Processing Simulation and Design at Swansea includes not only simulation and design optimization, but also industrial scale processing trials. Research quality was rated as internationally leading in the Independent Grant Reviews of their two most recent projects. The substantial in-kind contribution by Cinpres, Schulman and Birkby's, and tight costing at the Universities, together with their proven record of delivering on objectives, makes this a highly cost-effective project. Exploitation and technology transfer routes are clearly defined.The project promises productive synergies by combining experimental work with modelling and simulation through the collaboration of University centres with established expertise in these areas, supported by leading industrial collaborators. Hence, in addition to the deliverables to the engineering community, it is believed that the project will enhance the research capability of the two groups, and allow further research to be undertaken on the foundation that will be created in this project.


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