EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M020827/1
Title: Large Volume, Multi-material High Speed Sintering Machine
Principal Investigator: Majewski, Dr CE
Other Investigators:
Bell, Dr A J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 April 2015 Ends: 30 September 2017 Value (£): 892,226
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
21 Jan 2015 Manufacturing Inst. FULLS Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Additive Manufacturing (aka industrial 3D Printing) technologies have been widely recognised as extremely important for the reshaping, re-shoring and sustainable growth of UK manufacturing. The lack of process speed has been cited as the greatest inhibitor to growth of Additive Manufacturing, identifying a need for speed improvement by 4-10X over today's technologies.

High Speed Sintering (http://www.lboro.ac.uk/enterprise/hss/) is an Additive Manufacturing process invented under EPSRC funded research with granted patents globally. High Speed Sintering (HSS) has the potential to be the world's first Additive Manufacturing process that is capable of producing robust polymer parts at a production rate quicker than 1 second per part and at a cost that is comparable with today's high volume manufacturing processes such as injection moulding. Additionally, HSS has the potential to create multi-material parts in a scalable manner. In this project we propose to create the world's first HSS machine capable of high part throughput and multi-materials and thus open up the possibility for a vast range of hitherto impossible research of international significance to be undertaken.

HSS works by first taking a 3D computer aided design model of a part to be made and slicing this into thin layers, each layer being represented by a 2D bitmap image file. A computer file containing all the bitmap images that comprise each layer of the part to be made is sent to an HSS machine. The machine starts by depositing a thin layer of fine polymer powder onto a flat platform and then printing the bitmap image of the bottom layer of the part to be made onto the powder using a special ink designed to absorb infra-red energy. Next, a lamp emits infra-red energy across the surface of the powder/ink and the ink absorbs the energy becoming hot enough to melt and fuse together the polymer powder directly beneath it - areas that have not been printed do not heat enough to melt the powder. The machine then deposits a further layer of powder over the first layer and prints the 2D shape of the next layer of the part being made and again applies infra-red energy over the bed surface. This melts particles under the ink in the second layer to each other but also melts these particles to those that were melted in the previous layer, starting to build up a 3D part. The process is repeated many times to create a part that is embedded in a "cake" of un-melted powder. The un-melted powder is then removed to reveal the part.

HSS has been proven to work on a small scale using single materials. The aim of this project is to create a large machine with a bed area of 1m x 1m that is capable of creating many parts simultaneously. Our models predict that a 1m x 1m x 1m bed will enable a production rate of small components <1 second per part, representing a speed improvement over 10X compared to today's comparable state of the art machines. The machine we will make will also allow us to print further materials additional to the ink that absorbs infra-red energy - for example we will be able to print conductive inks so that we can create parts with embedded electronic circuitry and devices such as capacitors.

There will be significant technical challenges to create the machine especially in terms of powder deposition and thermal control; our additional ambition to create multi-material parts will present substantial challenges in terms of inkjet printing and thermal control of dissimilar materials. We will address these challenges by first conducting a range of experiments into aspects such as method of powder deposition and approaches to printing dissimilar inks to inform our design decisions. We will create the machine by employing a team of engineers with a strong track record for producing manufacturing research equipment led by the lead inventor of the HSS process.

Key Findings
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Potential use in non-academic contexts
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk