Whilst flexible and providing significant design freedom AM is dominated by technologies that are inherently slow; this has in many ways been the burden of AM since its transformation from Rapid Prototyping. The current market is predicated by point-by-point consolidation mechanisms, notably in the powder bed sector, dominated by technologies such as laser sintering and selective laser melting. The move to multi-functionality is not only a challenge to the printing of ‘active’ elements within an additive component but also to have systems that can consolidate the structural elements of a component with increased speed, resolution and repeatability. This project attempts to explore the addressing of these criteria through the use of novel masking systems for full layer sintering of polymers. Within the first year of the EPSRC Centre, significant progress has been made in the design, manufacture and installation of an Area Sintering test rig. The system components were selected by the team due to their modular architecture which allows for interchangeable energy sources. Due to the confidential nature of this project the rig is situated in a purpose built room within the new laboratory facility at The University of Nottingham.
In August 2012, the project acquired a new full time research fellow in addition to the existing technical support. A six-month feasibility study is now underway and due to be completed by January 2013. Key aspects of this work will seek to determine potential intellectual property avenues for the project, and suitable energy sources / masking systems. Results of this work will then feed into a second study to be undertaken in spring 2013 when suitable materials will be selected and tested.
Project Team (Researchers)
Prof Richard Hague, Dr Chris Tuck, Dr Ruth Goodridge, Dr Helen Thomas, Mr Mark East