Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - ACCOMIM (ACtuator COmponents made by alternative Metal Injection Moulding)

Project Context and Objectives:
Nowadays, most small and complex metallic parts are produced by traditional and cost intensive machining operations. Furthermore, complex design shapes are manufactured by assembling different parts, which means big amount of chipping of unused material. These factors increase the cost and environmental impact of the parts, as well as the energy used for manufacturing. The alternative production of these parts by MIM (Metal Injection Moulding) can reduce costs and energy, and allow a higher complexity in a single manufacturing step.

Metal Injection Moulding is a near-net-shape process, which starts with the injection of metallic powder mixed with a polymeric binder in a mould, to produce a final full metallic part by means of a complex debinding and sintering process. The result is a fully metallic part with nearly the same material strength as components made by milling and turning from metallic bars. This process is well established for manufacturing small and complex metallic parts in a wide variety of sectors (automotive, valves, locks, weaponry, surgery, etc), but not in the aerospace industry, especially for actuator components in the primary and secondary flight control systems.

The goal of the ACCOMIM project is to identify the small and complex components in the actual actuators used in the primary and secondary flight controls that can be produced by MIM technology, being the target the component requirement. Several MIM prototypes and sample tests will be manufactured using industry facilities with the most adequate material and industrial process for this critical application. The high strength and quality of the prototypes and test samples is assessed by strict quality controls and tests (visual, dimensional, metallographic, fatigue, corrosion and non-destructive testing).

Design criteria, standards for materials and final controls, and control data sheet for each reference will be adapted to the characteristics of this new technology to produce actuator components for the aircraft sector, including a prospective view of industrialization, reduction on environmental impact and manufacturing cost of the components.

Thus, the main activities carried out in the project are the following:
- Analysis of the state of the art of materials which can be used as feedstock for the metal injection moulding process
- Selection of one possible material to proof material strength values for the application and substitution of traditional metallic bar materials used in aircraft applications
- Analysis of the feasibility to substitute screen flight control parts by parts made from MIM process
- Selection of several parts (depending on part complexity) and manufacturing of a small batch by means of MIM to proof their quality for later aircraft applications
- Cost and manufacturing analysis in comparison to standard part manufacturing
- Tests on specimens and prototypes for the evidence of sufficient strength and quality values for a later application on aircraft parts

The ACCOMIM consortium is composed by the following two partners:
- MIM TECH ALFA, S. L., a company specialized in the Metal Injection Moulding process, with the required expertise and competences in the MIM technology.
- IK4-AZTERLAN, a technological research centre specialized in metallurgy, which will be in charge of the testing and evaluation of the prototypes and samples.

Project Results:
The main goal of the ACCOMIM project is to evaluate the capability of Metal Injection Moulding (MIM) technology to substitute conventional machining as the main manufacturing technology to produce actuator components for flight control systems. The project lasts 18 months and has developed activity for the first 9-month period.

The main objectives of this period were to identify candidate parts to be manufactured by MIM, define the feedstock materials to be used, define manufacturing process route and control plans, and stablish a preliminary cost analysis for MIM manufacturing of the parts.
Once this work is finished, the next step is to select an affordable set of parts (2-3) for the manufacturing of prototypes, adapting its design to MIM requirements, as a previous step to the design and manufacturing of an injection mould for the production of prototypes.

The main results achieved so far are the following:

- A full analysis of the materials used for the manufacturing of actuator components has been performed, and the most suitable MIM feedstock materials available in the market have been proposed as substitutes. Thus, parts that are commonly manufactured using 15-5PH and PERMENORM® materials will be substituted respectively by 17-4PH and FN50, which are available as MIM feedstock materials.
- After screening a large set of possible candidates, 4 actuator components have been selected for the manufacturing of prototypes. Besides, the geometry of a specimen for tensile testing has also been defined. For the manufacturing of these 5 geometries, 3 moulds have been projected: one of them will be a single-cavity mould which one specific geometry, and the other two will be two-cavity moulds, one of them will include the geometries of two parts, and the other one, the remaining part and the test specimen.
- The manufacturing process has been fully designed in terms of the parameters governing the different stages of the process (injection, debinding, sintering, final operations). Besides, the control data sheets after each production stage have been defined, in order to have an accurate control of the characteristics of the parts during the whole production chain.
- A preliminary cost analysis has been conducted per each part, including both MIM production costs and outsourced finishing operation costs. The result is promising and, if MIM production is technically feasible within the requirements of the final application in terms of geometry, tolerances, mechanical behaviour and functional properties, MIM manufacturing could be a very efficient and cost-saving solution for the production of this type of parts.
- The mould design task is being performed in order to have functional moulds in the upcoming weeks to start with the manufacturing of prototypes as scheduled in DoW.

The deliverables defined in DoW have been prepared and submitted within the planned timeframe, and the milestones predicted have been reached with no unexpected delays.

The information exchange inside the project consortium and with the Topic Manager has been very active during the first period, with frequent meetings (both physical and on-line) and permanent communication. This assures that the work performed and, thus, the final results, will be fully in line with the Topic Manager expectations and requirements.

Potential Impact:
The main result of the project will be the development of a new production technology for actuator components of flight control systems, which will have an important impact on the design criteria and manufacturing costs of these specific parts.

However, the project impact is not limited to the ACCOMIM technical achievement and the project topic itself, but there are some environmental issues that must be considered too. Summarizing, the project expected impact includes the following three aspects, which are a relevant part in this project: (a) Technical impact, (b) Industrial and financial impact, and (c) Environmental impact.

From the technical point of view, MIM technology will allow new changes in design concepts managed by actual designers in the aeronautic industry. Tolerance constraint in dimensions will reduce excess of material used for later-on finishing operations and so the use of resources as raw material and energy will be reduced. All the feed system and the rejected parts coming from this technology can be used again for injecting new parts and so there is no waste generation. All external shapes and many of the internal can be developed as needed by the designer, not being limited by process conditions. Besides, the increase in the demand volume of different alloys due to their use in new sectors as the aeronautics, can promote the development of new feedstocks for this sector and for emerging sectors with low demand volume for some alloys.

From the industrial and financial point of view, there will also be an important impact. MIM is essentially a technology for producing complex shape parts in high quantities. If the shape allows the production of the part by, for example, conventional pressing and sintering, MIM would in most cases be too expensive. However, if the required number of complex parts is higher than a certain amount, MIM is cheaper than machining. This is precisely the opportunity this project will work and proof for the actuator components.

From the environmental point of view, the main improvement will be the raw material amount decrease, as MIM manufacturing uses generated waste as raw material several times, and there is a 100% of efficiency, as a direct consequence of the project. Energy efficiency, water and all the rest environmental issues are improved as a consequence of the manufacturing process. Less raw material processing, affects to the manufacturing process itself, with a collateral decrease of the manufacturing costs comparing with actual manufacturing process and actual energy and other environmental values.

As other impact, the synergies between different research projects should be mentioned; Project partners have experience in FP7 as partners of previous FP7 and Clean Sky projects, being an added value the possibility to sum up. Other Clean Sky projects will also be considered, to have the global picture of both the final Demonstrator and the end-user’s circumstances.

Another consequence, not so linked with European competitiveness but nevertheless with huge relevance, is that ACCOMIM outputs are expected to have essential societal impact. More than 3.0 million people are employed in the European Aircraft and Airlines industry, thus strengthening the competitiveness of this industry and related SME’s through the development of state-of-the-art technologies is vital to Europe’s economic future.


Pedro Pablo RODRÍGUEZ, (R&D Manager)
Tel.: +34943820300
Correo electrónico
Número de registro: 184216 / Última actualización el: 2016-06-07
Fuente de información: SESAM