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Thanks to the efforts of Dr Amar Behera, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering; Senior Technical Officer, Jakub Gacka; Technical Officer, John Morris and Mechanical Engineering student Filip Lagodziuk, rapid prototyped metallic parts have been made for the first time at Chester.

The project will enable the customized manufacture of complex sheet parts with an extremely low cost compared to conventional forming processes, as the lead time is minimal and there is no need for a custom die that costs thousands of pounds.

The project looked at the flexible forming of tunnel shaped sheet metal parts using incremental sheet forming - a novel prototyping process for sheet metal. Running as a final year student project, it was proposed by Dr Behera who is an expert in this field and led its development. Filip, has helped to implement the ideas, concepts and designs as well as learning more about computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing with John and Jakub providing technical support in manufacturing the parts.

Before this, no prototype sheet metal parts had been made at Chester although they had been made using 3D printing with plastic. The parts can be used for biomedical device manufacture such as for cranial implants. They can also be used for aerospace prototypes such as aerofoils, automotive fenders, solar cooker boxes and they can also serve as moulds for making vacuum formed parts.

Dr Behera said that this breakthrough should open up new collaborations with industry. As the process doesn’t use a custom-made die, it reduces the cost of making new metallic prototypes from tens of thousands of pounds to just dozens of pounds. It will also minimise the lead-in time from design to manufacture from several weeks to just a few minutes depending on the size of the parts.

He also added that he would like to extend this work into developing a larger scale robotic platform for incremental forming which will enable the manufacture of real world automotive, aerospace and architectural products. There is also scope for research on process variants, such as laser assisted forming, double sided forming, electrically assisted forming, and ultrasonic forming.

Dr Behera said: “I am extremely proud of everyone who has worked on this project. It has created new opportunities for the University to work with industry and also given our student Filip new skills which he can carry into his future career.”

Filip said: “I am really interested in manufacturing and when I first came across the project I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to get more experience under my belt in this area.

“As it is something I have never come across before it was exciting learning about it as well as the history of the process too. At the start it all seemed impossible to do, but once the set up was ready and first part was manufactured it was clear to me that it will work for the rest of my project. Along the way I developed further design skills as well as essential knowledge on how to use our high-quality equipment to make the parts.”

 

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