A cutting edge project at the £40 million Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry has the potential to save UK industry millions of pounds by re-manufacturing high value components that would otherwise have gone for scrap.
Patents are being filed and a company to market the ground-breaking process is being formed, while MTC engineers and their collaborative partners put the final touches to the technology.
The RECLAIM project uses laser cladding, automated inspection and high speed machining in a single, fully integrated re-manufacturing cell. The technology enables manufacturers to repair and recycle worn, high value components such as turbine blades to a consistently high quality. The innovation is expected to make a major contribution to the efficiency of the aerospace, defence and power industries in particular.
As well as repairing damaged and worn parts, the system can be used to manufacture totally new complex metal parts, upgrade obsolete parts and reconfigure standard parts for for low volume applications.
The work is being carried out under the auspices of the Technology Strategy Board, a body established by the Government to drive innovation. The Board has contributed more than half of the million pound-plus research and development costs.
As well as the Manufacturing Technology Centre, the industrial partners in the RECLAIM project include software developer Delcam plc, metrology equipment developer Renishaw plc, laser processing equipment manufacturer Electrox, CNC integration experts Precision Engineering Technologies Ltd, and turbocharger manufacturer Cummins Turbo Technologies. In addition, Leicester DeMontfort University played a key role in the development of the laser cladding system.
MTC chief executive Clive Hickman said every industrial sector had a requirement for re-manufacturing and it contributed around £5 billion to the UK economy, not to mention its impact on environmental sustainability and the avoidance of waste. However, conventional re-manufacturing processes were slow and labour intensive.
“The new process enables cost-effective, rapid and reliable re-manufacturing of high value engineering parts. It can be fitted onto existing machine tools, and allows seamless transition between cladding, machining and inspection operations. There is no doubt that this technology – a world first for the MTC and its partners – will transform the whole process of re-manufacturing,” he said.
The Manufacturing Technology Centre, based on Ansty Park, Coventry, opened last year following a £40 million cash injection from the West and East Midlands development agencies. It is a partnership between some of the UK’s major global manufacturers and three forward-thinking universities: Birmingham, Nottingham and Loughborough as well as TWI Ltd, the operating division of The Welding Institute.
The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy.