A new academic-industrial partnership has been launched to pursue innovation in WAAM 3D printing technology aiming to achieve previously unattainable scales, velocities and manufacturing efficiencies through additive manufacturing. The project, known as HPWAAM, has received £1.2m of funding from Innovate UK (part of UK Research and Innovation, driving productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses) and will see the involvement of seven organizations, including UK-based WAAM3D.
The collaboration commences using seminal research carried out by Cranfield University as a basis to develop a novel solution for the UK industrial sector. This business-led, commercially focused project involves a powerful consortium to deliver ambitious technology targets and will support an industry-focused ecosystem for the wide-spread adoption of additive manufacturing in applications such as construction and resource industries.
HPWAAM stands for High Productivity Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing and the organizations committed to the HPWAAM project are:
- • BOC – a member of the Linde Group, a leading industrial gas provider
- • Cranfield University – a wholly postgraduate university based in Bedfordshire
- • Foster + Partners – an international design studio
- • Steelo – a lean manufacturer of construction systems
- • WAAM3D – a spin-off company from Cranfield University
- • Weir Group – a global mining equipment leader
- • Wintwire – a specialist SME wire manufacturer
According to an official statement released by the consortium, “this project is an exciting opportunity to focus on the distinct research capabilities of our partners, towards developing an economically feasible way of printing large scale, complex designs at entirely new speeds. The critical funding provided by Innovate UK reflects the credibility of the project as well as our ambition to create future value for our partners and the wider UK economy. 3D printing has proven numerous benefits over traditional processes in terms of speed, design, sustainability and cost. This research will explore the next generation of solutions that High Productivity Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing can unlock. We are grateful for the full support of all our partners as we embark on the next chapter of additive manufacturing.”
Powder-based AM process variants are better suited for small, complicated objects, and leverage their freedom of design to produce highly optimized components. Wire-based methods, on the other hand, are capable of producing much larger objects. The seminal work carried out by UK-based Cranfield University started as far back as the mid-2000s. The findings have demonstrated that Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) can deliver considerably shorter lead times and reduce material waste compared to other traditionally established processes, such as subtractive manufacturing, casting or fabrication.
Today, additive manufacturing has been adopted by a large number of healthcare and aerospace companies but is a very small part of the metals industry. It is however growing rapidly. The HPWAAM project, which started in November 2020, will take the WAAM process to the next level of industrialization. The main objective is to increase the productivity of the WAAM process, to reduce part building time and costs further.
Moreover, build strategies and approaches will be improved to achieve a higher level of resolution in the WAAM components, without compromising integrity and productivity. Together with fundamental process development, both these goals will require hardware and software innovation, especially in the fields of sensing, power delivery, and data preparation intelligence. Such new tools will be used to demonstrate the capabilities of HPWAAM for the production of massive components, applicable to a large number of industry sectors, including mining, energy, and construction.
WAAM3D is providing WAAM systems, software and services and will upgrade its software for adaptable resolution, integrating the new HPWAAM process knowledge into their intelligent parameters calculation packages, which provide process information during the data preparation. The company is leading the project exploitation, also taking HPWAAM to other industry sectors.
Wintwire, a specialist SME wire manufacturer, is providing high-quality-shaped wires needed for HPWAAM. The company will supply novel wires for HPWAAM process studies and demonstrator manufacturing. The consortium will also assess the suitability of the WAAM process to repair and remanufacture large metallic components, as well as the impact of shorter supply chains enabled by the WAAM process. Indeed, a much more local approach to manufacture is now envisaged, with WAAM systems available on construction sites, oil rigs, or alongside mining sites. Such a paradigm shift is posed to reduce the environmental footprint of metallic part production, as well as mitigating the effect of the inherently lengthy transportation legs associated with traditional manufacturing approaches.