Manufacture with Pulsed-Electric Mechano-Vibratory Machining

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Wolfson Sch of Mech, Elec & Manufac Eng


Manufacturing of high-end parts requires machining of difficult-to-cut materials which is rather challenging. To date, research into improving the machining process deal with either (a) improving tooling with a plethora of coatings or geometric features; or; (b) tweaking the thermo-mechanical characteristics in machining, with the use of coolants and/or varying the machining speed. Through endless cycles of optimisation, the industry has reached its limit of what is possible. We need to explore radically different routes to improve this process.

Here, we explore a hybrid machining process where high-density DC current is delivered to the material being machined via a tool which is vibrating at very high frequencies. This electro-vibratory machining process will be effective in electrically conductive materials (which is essentially all metals and alloys which are used in the aerospace and energy industry). Such a unique machining process will allow for significantly reduced machining forces, improve part integrity in service and make the overall machining process much cheaper, by eliminating the need for environmentally harmful coolants. Finally, research will be conducted with the aim of developing next-generation inexpensive tools for optimal manufacture.

This unique machining prototype will be designed, developed and installed on an existing CNC machine to test the efficacy of machining relevant materials. Machining studies will be conducted at industrially relevant machining conditions. Comparisons will be drawn with current practice for best machining outcomes. It is expected that the new manufacturing technique will significantly improve productivity in the UK manufacturing context, as the concept can be adapted to other machining processes such as drilling, milling and sawing; joining processes such as vibration welding and possibly ultrasonic additive manufacture of materials which are electrically conductive.

Planned Impact

The proposed research program will strengthen the international competitiveness of UK research in manufacturing with a direct impact in high-value component manufacture in the aerospace and energy industry. As an example, the fast-growing energy demand and concerns about climate changes drive industries to implement improved components which will require longer maintenance intervals to achieve high-efficiency power and energy systems.

The project outcome will help address this critical need by improving manufacture with the use of high-density pulsed power delivered via a vibratory machining system. The research outcomes will provide scientific guidance and support for industries to gain improved machining efficiency during component manufacture. This will contribute to ensuring the structural integrity and safety under service conditions. We will take a lead in promoting the impact of the work with the assistance of our existing collaborative network both nationally and internationally.

Key scientific findings generated from the research will have a direct impact on research communities working on advanced manufacture of materials, particularly subtractive manufacture of hard-to-machine materials including milling, drilling and sawing. A number of methods will be used to maximise the impact across communities, including publication in journals and presentation at conferences. Additionally, all research data produced from the project will be archived with public access, which will allow other researchers to access the relevant data for research and development.

The proposed research will allow one PDRA to establish him/her skill and experience in the areas of advanced next-generation manufacturing. The research will fuel further development in adapting the technology in CNC based machining setups and is expected to affect the wider manufacturing industry significantly. Training in the technology will accelerate in future years which will help alleviate the critical engineering skills shortage in the UK. This research grant will also be an important step for the PI to develop and expand his leadership roles in the field.


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Description Our research findings show some exciting possibilities. First, depending on the amount of current density, a metallic material demonstrates varying softening effects. The nature of the current is crucial as well - so in addition to current density, the nature of the current (pulsed or continuous) becomes crucial. In pulsed currents, we observe that in most cases it is not the frequency of the pulse but the peak current which influence the outcome.
Exploitation Route We have submitted a follow on grant as expected of us. The proposal is under review.
Sectors Aerospace

Defence and Marine


including Industrial Biotechology

Description This is still early, but we have presented our findings to various organisations and they have now agreed to support us in our future grant bids. The commercial advantage of the process has been demonstrated partially as a result we have 1 key tool manufacturer who is willing to partner with us to be an early adopter of our proposed technology.
First Year Of Impact 2023
Sector Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic