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Innovative hybrid production process for alloys

Ongoing

Project description

With the electric vehicles (EV) market projected to reach approximately 27 million units per year by 2030, the automotive industry is constantly working on solutions to meet the challenges associated with heavy batteries and developing lighter-weight components to achieve efficiency targets. Additive manufacturing has long offered automotive designers and manufacturers the potential to overcome these challenges but is currently still limited by the speed of the processes, maximum part size and a relatively high cost-per-part, which is, generally, twice the cost of casting production methods. 

With this in mind, the Casting-Hybrid-Additive-Manufacturing-Parts-Production (CHAMPP) programme has been initiated to investigate a hybrid approach to the production of parts by considering the benefits of both casting and additive manufacturing.

Alloyed will contribute its expertise in developing novel and innovative new alloys using its Alloy by Design (ABD®) platform for both casting and additive manufacturing as well as the capabilities of its Engine® platform for increasing additive manufacturing performance, together with the expertise of BCAST and Gestamp in their respective fields of casting research and world-class global manufacturing of automotive parts. 

The aim is to combine the low cost-per-part capabilities of casting with the design and production flexibility of additive manufacturing. In this way, automotive manufacturers will be able to cast their standard components across multiple models, and subsequently, use metal additive manufacturing to customise those standard parts for specific variants at the volumes required.

To date, research in this area has mostly focussed on steel materials. However, while steel remains a relatively low-cost material, the complex supply chains and/or expensive new machines have been a barrier to large-scale hybridisation reaching the mainstream. Moreover, research on hybridisation using aluminium ( or alloys thereof) has been limited by traditional cast/wrought alloys which, when used with additive manufacturing processes, resulting in poor mechanical performance. Similarly, current aluminium alloy additive manufacturing powders are generally not suited for automotive production applications as they are expensive and result in poorer mechanical properties with many defects. 

The CHAMPP programme seeks to build on the consortium's prior alloy and hybridisation research to develop and test new aluminium alloys better suited to future automotive needs. The focus will be on developing alloys that can first be cast and then subsequently built on to produce custom/complex features using AM techniques with a compatible alloy that maintains mechanical properties and performance. 


Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Professor Shouxun Ji - Prof. Shouxun Ji is currently a Professor at Brunel University London. He has been focusing on the development of lightweight materials and structures for the automotive industry, aerospace, powered tools, and other sectors. The main activities include purpose-developed aluminium alloys and magnesium alloys with improved ductility, strength (at ambience and elevated temperatures), modulus and thermal conductivity, and the hybrid structures using different materials and different joining techniques. He is also working on new materials and structures for special applications, such as materials for explosive cords and high strength casting materials for aircraft. His works have helped industrial partners to deliver several products in massive manufacturing. Recently, he worked with world leading company to develop magnesium alloys for small engine applications, which requires improved strength and thermal conductivity at room temperature and at elevated temperatures. Prof. Ji have plenty experiences in high pressure die casting including die structure design, gating system design and optimisation, casting process and casting materials. He also worked extensively on other shaped-casting processes such as sand casting, gravity casting, low pressure die casting, semi-solid metal processing of rheo-die casting, rheo-extrusion, and rheo-twin roll casting. His previous works also included cast irons (spheroidal graphite cast iron and austempered ductile iron) and copper alloys. Prof. Ji has published more than 130 papers in the peer-reviewed scientific Journals and more than 20 international patents. He is the member of three ISO technical committee and one BSI technical committee and the editorial member of three scientific journals. He received the innovation award from CMF UK in 2017.