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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/C009398/1
Title: High Throughput Selective Laser Melting of Cellular Components
Principal Investigator: Sutcliffe, Professor CJ
Other Investigators:
Cantwell, Professor W Fox, Dr P Black, Dr RA
Rhoades, Mr ADG Mines, Dr RAW Chalker, Professor PR
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Airbus Group Limited Integrated Heat Exchange McLaren Group
MCP Equipment Osprey Metals Ltd ReaLizer GmbH
Southampton Photonics Ltd Stryker Howmedica Osteonics
Department: School of Engineering
Organisation: University of Liverpool
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 October 2005 Ends: 30 September 2010 Value (£): 1,083,781
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Processing Materials testing & eng.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is a method of producing metal and ceramic parts. Unlike normal methods of part manufacture, casting, machining and the like, SLM grows components using a so-called layered manufacturing. Layered manufacturing takes a computer-generated design and builds it in a series of layers from the parts bottom to the top. SLM does this by selectively melting layers of metal powder to the shape of the cross section of the part being manufactured using high-powered lasers. SLM is a special process as it can make parts which cannot be made in any other way. It can make tiny scaffolding structures like those you see on the outside of buildings but at an incredibly small scale. The smallest scaffold we have built so far has individual strands 200 millionth's of a meter in diameter, about 3 times larger than a human hair.These tiny structures are very useful, they can be used to make hip joints for old people, fuel cells for environmentally friendly cars, lightweight components for aeroplanes and space ships and cooling systems for the next generation of games consoles.There are some issues however, we want to make these small structures from metal powders, which are volatile exploding at the slightest sign of heat, remember we are melting them with lasers, which make the powders very hot. Secondly we want to build the structures on a large scale, that is, we want big parts made from small lattices and we also want to build them quickly.We will do this by designing and making a new machine, which will be easy and safe to use but quick enough to make any part required in a matter of hours. The machine will be able to do this by using 4 lasers instead of 1 and handling the powder under a special atmosphere with an airlock to stop explosions. The machine will be able to produce any part which can fit into a cube of 0.5m by 0.5m by 0.5m.The amount of data required to control the position of the laser to make such large parts from such intricate lattices is huge. We intend to approach this problem not by using computer aided design packages to draw each individual strand of the geometry but rather to use mathematical equations to tell us where to melt the powder. This will reduce the amount of data required and allow us to build large intricate parts.Once the machine is complete and has been trialled on the type of structures we want to build we will undertake 4 individual research projects. The first one will investigate the production of aircraft components. Here we will use the metal lattices to fill the gap between the aircraft's carbon fibre skins. Because we are able to grow any lattice geometry we will be able to make the material strong where it needs of be and light where it doesn't. We will also be able to design structures, which will absorb impact from debris such as tire rubber hailstones and birds. All these development will make air travel safer and more environmentally friendly.The second project will develop incredibly small devices for the integration of electronic devices (micro chips) with fluid systems. This will allow tiny amounts of fluids to be mixed and analysed automatically by the chips electronics leading to developments in, for instance, the production of special chemicals.The third project will develop metal bones for implantation into humans where the bone may have been injured by disease or trauma. Current devices are either screwed or glued in place and after some time they can come loose. The machine developed here will allow us to grow metal that looks like bone allowing us to get rid of the glue and screws because the bone will grow in to the implant and become one with it. Finally to make all this happen we need to study the materials science of the components we produce. This will give us a fundamental understanding of the materials and perhaps even lead to the discovery of new alloys and systems, which are not known yet.
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Organisation Website: http://www.liv.ac.uk