Hybridization of metallic transformation processes to promote the intelligent manufacturing of multi-functional components
The IMAGINE research team, lead by AZTERLAN Metallurgy Research Centre, member of BRTA, will develop hybrid casting, forging, stamping, additive manufacturing and welding processes to create components of complex geometries and with specific characteristics, at competitive costs, for automotive, aerospace and oil&gas sectors, among others.
The evolution of manufacturing technologies, hand on hand with the development of materials, makes it possible to advance in the creation of multi-functional components with increasingly complex designs and optimized properties, that can help with challenges like weight reduction or increasing the durability of components. This way, the development of manufacturing processes contributes to creating a more efficient, sustainable, and competitive industry and econonomy.
When approaching the manufacturing of a component, given its functionality, and required properties, the most appropriate technologies are evaluated depending on their compatibility with the transformation process and the advantages offered by each of them. As every manufacturing technology has their own advantages and disadvantages, the one offering the greatest engagement between the critical design parameters and the optimal features on components is the one selected, manufacturing cost also being a determinant element.
With the aim of overcoming the limitations presented by current transformation technologies, and taking advantage of their synergies, IMAGINE project, lead by AZTERLAN Metallurgy Research Centre, looks for providing high value technological solutions for metallic components and their transformation processes, by means of hybridazing at least two transformation technologies.
In the words of AZTERLAN researcher and project coordinator Dr. Ana Isabel Fernández, “when talking about process hybridization, we mean that the result obtained by means of this hybrid technology must be superior to the result obtained by means of summing up its base technologies. We also should not confuse hybridization with the manufacturing of multi-material components”. This way, within IMAGINE “we aim at substantially improving the multi-functionallity of the components to be manufactured, improving the flexibility of the manufacturing process and saving costs and/or materials”.
hybridization of mature and new technologies of reference within the Basque industry
When it comes to the Basque Country, “metallic transformation is an important industry for our economy, with a significant presence of foundry, forging and stamping processes (and their joint by means of welding). These technologies present a quite technological maturity and are currently accompanied by additive manufacturing in its different forms”.
As told by Dr. Ana Isabel Fernández, the selection of the technologies to hybridaze and their combination, along with the definition of the results expeted from these hybridization processes, has supposed a first critical step for the project. Finally, “we have defined 4 working lines which are being developed by 4 specialized teams, working in parallel and with their own specific end goals”:
- Casting process + Additive manufacturing (wire laser and WAAM), aiming at getting a greater flexibility to manufacture parts of great dimensions with personalized and/or functional properties (aluminum alloys).
- Forging process + Additive manufacturing (LMD and SLM), which looks for increassing design flexibility by means of applying common forged foundations of great resistance, and the design of different versions of parts with varying functionalities by means of additive depossition on critical components for aerospace industry (superalloys).
- Laser Welding process (LBW) + Forming/Stamping process, which targets the manufacturing of ultralight parts with internal or external ribbing welded in a T shape on flat metallic sheets prior to being formed. Additionally, reinforcement by means fo overlap welding is being studied (steel + aluminum).
- Hydrosolidification/Ablation technology (an innovative casting process) + Forging process, which aims at avoiding forging steps by using near-net-shape castings that are afterwards forged to achieve end characteristics required to a forged security part (aluminum alloys).
Mold filling for aluminum ablation casting at AZTERLAN facilities
In every case, the resarch team of IMAGINE aims at not only advancing in the design, manufacturing, and study of demonstators and test parts to be manufactured by means of hybrid technologies, but also at studying, simulating, prototyping, testing, and validating the components manufactured by means of these technologies. “It is important to understand that, in a hybridization context, we count with no applicable references regarding the real behavior of materials during the transformation process nor their in-service performance. There is a great gap of knowledge that we must fill during the project”.
The IMAGINE project consortium is formed by 4 technology centers, 2 univesities and 2 R&D business units, with complimentary fields of specialization that are also a referent in the Basque advance manfuacturing landscape: BRTA members AZTERLAN (project leader), CEIT, LORTEK and TEKNIKER, and the R&D business units EIPC RESEARCH CENTER and FUNDACIÓN CIE I+D+i, the Department of Mechanical Engineering of UPV/EHU and the Advanced Forming Processes Research Group of of MGEP. The project also counts with the collaboration of an Industrial Contrast Commitee participated by referent Basque companies with manufacturing experience and capabilities in one or more technologies being studied for hybridization.
With an estimated length of 2 years, IMAGINE Manufacturing for Intelligent Industry (Tecnologías de fabricación híbridas para la industria inteligente) project, is financed by the Department of Industry of the Basque Government by means of the Elkartek Program for funding Colaborative Research in strategical fields, under reference KK-2021/00120. IMAGINE is a strategical bet for all the consortium members which are “alligned with the significant potential of technological development and application that IMAGINE results can bring to all of us”.