Post Processing | UK
While additive manufacturing (AM) is able to quickly and efficiently produce individual items by printing geometric layers of materials, the surface quality of the end component can often fall short of traditional manufacturing methods. That means that while the initial creation of the components is faster, less wasteful and more cost effective, some post processing is required.
By using a variety of laser technologies, including laser peening, laser polishing and adaptive linishing, AM components can achieve a higher level of surface quality. Without these techniques, AM would struggle to produce the type of quality needed to be put to use in industries where the highest quality components are needed, such as aerospace and healthcare.
The SEAMLESS project aims to remove the barrier to adoption of AM in industries such as aerospace and orthopaedics by combining a variety of post processing techniques, with in-process inspection and simulations tools. This is underpinned by a digital platform which ensures full and seamless connectivity between all aspects of the solution, developed and provided by Atlas.
- JRI Orthopaedics
- Manufacturing Technology Centre
- ETher NDE
- May 2017 to April 2020
- Manufacturing Technology Centre, Coventry, UK
With surface quality inconsistency being a barrier to adoption for AM in key industries, the SEAMLESS project aims to provide a solution in the form of post processing. By using a mix of post processing techniques, robotic automation, and a robust digital platform, the project demonstrates how relatively cost efficient, adaptive centres for surface finish post processing can be put to use bringing AM components up to scratch for demanding industries.
Laser peening uses shockwaves imparted by lasers to impact and effect the surfaces of materials. Laser polishing creates an incredibly thin molten layer on top of surfaces, allowing the peaks to run into the valleys, creating a smoother surface. Adaptive linishing is the final process included in the project and uses robotic technology and sensor feedback to perform linishing, removing excess material, targeted on a micro scale.
This combination of technology needed a digital delivery that was not only adaptable to various outputs, but accessible to stakeholders in a range of industries with a range of technical expertise. Data needed to be collected on the fly, analysed and put to use. Machines needed to provide feedback as they carried out their functions, feeding that data back into the analysis loop. Processes needed to be mapped where tasks could be assigned to and completed by different users and post processing machines, with quality checks happening concurrently and feedback on surface quality being provided by sensor technology in real-time.
Creating a comprehensive digital platform
Atlas software is designed to enable multiple parties and machine elements to have impactful input in complex processes. By developing a digital platform for the SEAMLESS project, Atlas was able to offer full and seamless connectivity between human input and a range of adaptable machinery.
By mapping processes which include each step of the surface finishing processes, Atlas software is able to create end-to-end loops that can be mapped, shared, run, updated and adapted to fit the needs of anyone looking to utilise the SEAMLESS project’s approach. Atlas provides a single location to manage and monitor progress on a live custom dashboard.
Collecting and utilising data
With real-time data being collected and transmitted by the machinery used in the post processing, Atlas software is able to evaluate the efficacy of the actions being taken and adapt to any issues that might arise. Quality control is happening as the processes are running and each of the techniques used by the SEAMLESS project runs until a desired result is achieved.
By managing and processing all manufacturing data from start to finish, Atlas software is able to provide user instructions. With full connectivity between the post processing cell’s components, data from sensors and PLCs is used to run an adaptive process loop based on real-time data inspection.
By partnering with Atlas, the SEAMLESS project was able to provide a digitally enabled solution for post processing for AM. Within Atlas, post processing processes can be mapped, shared and run. Live monitoring and analysis of data can be carried out in Atlas, providing a truly adaptive approach, using real-time data and analytics to ensure the highest quality output for each of a complex and interconnected set of post processing techniques.
- Demonstration of the efficacy of automated post processing for AM
- Successfully enabling the sharing of data and connectivity between SEAMLESS cell elements