Over the last three and half years a consortium of eight UK organisations have been working together to develop a new method of repairing (remanufacturing) high value engineering products.
The work, undertaken under the Technology Strategy Board supported* RECLAIM project, has resulted in the successful development of the world’s first, fully integrated, remanufacturing cell. The cell, which incorporates automated inspection, laser cladding and high speed machining, enables parts to be repaired to a consistently high quality, with only limited manual intervention. Using specialised CAD/CAM software developed by Delcam, together with the Sprint™ rapid scanning head developed by Renishaw, the unit is capable of precisely adapting the remanufacturing process for the geometry of the part being repaired.
Remanufacturing occurs to some extent in every industrial sector being performed by OEMs. It is most prevalent in sectors with high value goods or high technological content, for example aerospace, defence and power turbines. It is one of the most efficient ways of recycling worn parts as remanufacturing consumes only a fraction of the energy required to manufacture new parts. Remanufacturing contributes around £5 billion to UK economy and makes a substantial impact on quality-of-life and environmental sustainability by employing over 50,000 people and recovering around 270,000 tonnes of high value materials with an equivalent carbon saving of 800,000 tonnes of CO2. Unfortunately remanufacturing of engineering components entails a series of operations requiring parts to be transferred around manufacturing facilities and often to subcontractors. Each process is labour intensive and dependant upon the skill of the operator. The new RECLAIM cell enables cost effective, rapid and reliable remanufacturing of high value engineering parts in one place. In addition to the repairing of damaged parts the new system can be used to manufacture totally new complex metal parts, upgrade obsolete parts and reconfigure standard parts for low volume applications. Current commercial competition in this field is limited to specialised laser cladding cells which can cost in excess of £1m to buy.
These cells are not only expensive they are only able to undertake cladding operations, (inspection and machining has to be processed on other equipment).
The beauty of the RECLAIM system is that it can be fitted onto an existing machine tool. When not in use the laser cladding and inspection heads are housed in the tool changer, ready to be brought into action, this enabling seamless transition from cladding to machining and inspection operations.
The RECLAIM cell was assembled in the Manufacturing Technology Centre and tested on a range of industrial components including automotive turbochargers produced by Cummins Turbo Technologies Ltd who are a key end-user partner in the project.
There are six industrial partners in the project; CADCAM software developer Delcam Plc (coordinator), metrology equipment developer Renishaw Plc, Laser processing equipment manufacturer Electrox, CNC integration experts Precision Engineering Technologies Ltd, turbocharger manufacturer Cummins Turbo Technologies and the Manufacturing Technology Centre, responsible for testing the new process. In addition TWI (The Welding Institute) and DeMontfort University played a key role in the development of the laser cladding system.
In addition to filing patents to protect innovative features of the cell, a company is being established to commercialise the RECLAIM system. To support the commercialisation of the results of the RECLAIM project the Manufacturing Technology Centre is undertaking further work to refine the design of the system.
This project is co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board's Collaborative Research and Development programme, following an open competition. The total value of the project is £1,076,281 with £537,688 funding from the Technology Strategy Board. The Technology Strategy Board is an executive body established by the Government to drive innovation. It promotes and invests in research, development and the exploitation of science, technology and new ideas for the benefit of business - increasing sustainable economic growth in the UK and improving quality of life.