Reactive Metal Jet Fusion Printing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Mech, Materials & Aerospace Engineering

Abstract

This research will develop a new way of rapidly making high-quality metal parts by Additive Manufacturing, often referred to as 3D printing. This work, if successful, will lead to faster, cheaper and more environmentally-friendly production of functional parts to be used in the UK's leading industries. It will help maintain the competitive advantage of manufacturing industries in the UK and result in enhanced industrial output and lead to improved exports. The UK academic community will gain by opening up new research opportunities to chemists, materials scientists and engineers in universities. The public will gain through the manufacture of new products and job-creation in key industrial sectors in the UK.

Planned Impact

This proposal has been designed with impact at the core, focused on a technological leap in metal binder jet printing. The proposed research will take binder jet printing far beyond the state-of-the-art and is expected to create significant benefits for UK industry. The project will impact on a range of industrial sectors including: inkjet printing and processing equipment, ink and precursor formulation, powder manufacturers, and a range of end-users such as the automotive, aerospace, medical and other industries that utilise additive manufacturing (AM).

The worldwide market for all additive manufacturing products and services was estimated to be worth $4.1 billion in 2014. The AM sector has experienced a compound annual global growth rate of 35 % over the last three years. Direct part production now represents 43 % of the total global AM revenue. The global market for AM products and services has been forecast to reach £70 billion by 2025; the UK has been predicted to win about 5 % of this rapidly growing market. The UK's predicted AM market will have a strong effect on UK employment (estimated to be 63,000 by 2020). Future growth of the UK's AM market has been forecast to be about $21 billion by 2020; this will be driven by the adoption of AM by the aerospace, medical devices, automotive and creative industries. Over the last three decades, the UK has played a leading role in the development of AM technologies. AM has become a core technology within the field of high value manufacturing. Metals are the fastest-growing segment of the AM sector, with metal printer sales growing at 48 % and feed stock material sales increasing by 32 %. There are a large number of industries that will benefit from the proposed Reactive Metal Jet Fusion printing process. For example, the automotive industry, which has not yet adopted metal AM methods for production of functional parts due to issues with production rates and part-quality. However, the Reactive Metal Jet Fusion prining process will be able to deliver new products to market quickly and predictably, significantly reducing overall vehicle development costs. The aerospace industry, which already uses AM, will be able to better realise highly complex and high performance parts with integrated mechanical function, reduce the number of assembly features and enable the creation of internal functionality. The medical sector, which also uses AM, using the Reactive Metal Jet Fusion printing process, will be able to better translate 3D medical imaging data into customised solid medical devices, implants and prostheses.

There will be economic benefits by keeping these key UK industries at the forefront of global developments. There will spin-off societal benefits in terms of both increased employment opportunities in these industries. If the technique that we are proposing replaces conventional (e.g. subtractive) manufacturing methods for metal manufacturing it would be less materials intensive and therefore will have environmental benefits.

Publications

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