The University of Loughborough is looking to commercialise an innovative composites cutting device it has developed and which it claims makes machining composites as easy as ‘cutting through butter’.
The device which uses a technique called ultrasonically assisted machining (UAM), could revolutionise the way cutting, drilling and milling is done in manufacturing. It makes working on difficult-to-cut materials, like aerospace-grade composites, so easy it is like ‘cutting through butter’.
UAM uses a specially designed piezoelectric transducer working in tandem with a traditional turning, drilling or milling machine.
The device creates ultrasonic vibrations at anything between 20kHz and 39kHz, and the machining technique makes the composite material so ‘soft’ in the area being worked on that much less force is needed from the cutting tool, resulting in less damage, less waste, and a better finish.
UAM is the brainchild of Professor Vladimir Babitsky, from the Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, and has been developed extensively in the last few years with the support of Dr Anish Roy and Professor Vadim Silberschmidt. Several PhD projects have been successful over the last decade, including the recent work by Vaibhav Phadnis and Farrukh Makhdum, who have been instrumental in tackling the challenging task of drilling in carbon/epoxy composites.
“This is truly encouraging, which implies we ought to be looking for better, economically efficient and sustainable manufacturing methods in the immediate to near future,” Dr Roy says.
“UAM could well be the answer to this. The technique has been successful in the laboratory where multi-fold improvements in cutting intractable aerospace alloys have been demonstrated. It makes machining so easy it is like cutting through butter.
“Ultrasonically-assisted drilling has shown significant improvements in drilling carbon/epoxy composites with significantly reduced damage in the machined composite.This is particularly interesting, as any kind of machining of brittle composites can damage the composite material.
“The challenge is to minimise this and, if possible, completely eliminate damage due to drilling. Ultrasonic drilling has shown excellent damage mitigation with remarkable drilling force reductions.”
UAM is currently being extended into biomedical applications such as drilling holes in bones for orthopaedic surgery. Also, preliminary studies in drilling tiny holes in printed circuit boards show excellent potential for component assembly that require high precision.
Dr Roy says commercialisation will be the natural next step to take. “We are currently exploring avenues to do this.”
For more information,
contact Dr Anish Roy:
Email: [email protected]