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PILOTMANU Report Summary

Project ID: 604344
Funded under: FP7-NMP
Country: Italy

Periodic Report Summary 2 - PILOTMANU (Pilot manufacturing line for production of highly innovative materials)

Project Context and Objectives:

The main target of PilotManu is to upscale the current technological facility to a pilot scale High Energy Ball Milling (HEBM) machine able to deliver larger powder batches (up to 10 times the current productivity) to exploit the materials and products developed with this technology and to explore also other possible sectors not currently accessible due to productivity barrier.

PilotManu will manufacture nanostructured powders using a proprietary HEBM technology developed by MBN Nanomaterialia: it will enable the manufacture of tailored materials with “ultrafine” crystalline structure. The achieved nanostructure enables new properties to be harnessed in a variety of applications compared to larger micron scale similar composition powders. The advantages of scale-up will be validated by the adoption of the obtained materials in three industrial product-lines: conventional and advanced sintering, coatings by cold gas spraying (CGS) and high velocity air fuel (HVAF) and additive manufacturing by direct metal laser sintering (DLS) and selective laser sintering (SLS). The three product lines highlight the versatility of the HEBM technology and the capability to be exploited also at industrial level.
Regarding product line 1 (Conventional and advanced sintering), diamond abrasive tools are produced from the HEBM powders by pressure and pressure-less sintering techniques; a selection of innovative and lightweight materials with high performance will be processed also by advanced technique spark plasma sintering (SPS). Some of the benefits envisaged include nanostructured materials in the final components with improved mechanical properties and the supply of the materials with commercial volume at competitive costs.
About product line 2 (CGS and HVAF). CGS will be used to coat industrial components in order to provide high performance and nanostructured coatings at affordable prices and HVAF spraying will be investigated to spray WC-Co and WC-Co-Cr powders in order to improve wear and corrosion resistant properties of mechanical components. Some of the benefits envisaged includes nanostructured coatings with improved tribological properties, valorization of economic substrates at affordable costs and coating with improved efficiency and surface quality.
Finally, regarding product line 3 (additive manufacturing) DLS will be used to produce biomedical components with Titanium-based materials and to outline the sintering conditions for Ni and Ti super-alloys;
SLS will be investigated to process innovative polypropylene based powders to produce automotive and consumer goods. Some of the benefits envisaged include new cost effective plastic materials for SLS to expand the range of industrial applications, sintering of superalloys to enable new commercial opportunities such as repair of aerospace turbine blades and better joint implants.

Project Results:
The work performed is divided in two main areas: the realization of the Pilot HEBM machine and the Development of the product lines.
Pilot HEBM Machine
The pilot scale HEBM machine was designed to operate at a high frequency regime with a batch productivity increased by 10 times compared to the current technological facility and with low specific power consumption. The design approach was selected after the comparison between two different concepts. The Pilot machine was realized following the subsequent steps:
• Detailed executive design of the machine was realized and stress-fatigue simulations were performed
• All machine components were defined: main mechanical components were manufactured following the executive design and commercial components were ordered
• Critical components were tested in a small-scale prototype machine based on the same Pilot concept to confirm their reliability and durability before the assembling in PilotManu machine
• Fe-based material was processed in the small-scale prototype to verify the PilotManu HEBM process and to compare the obtained material with the powder resulted from current HEBM process
• Pilot machine was assembled and electrical parts and control panel were installed and checked
• Installation of the auxiliary systems of the machine (noise control, optimization of the cooling of the vials, control of reaction atmosphere and safety aspects) was started in order to complete the pilot machine and test the HEBM process

Development of the product lines
Following the specifications defined at the beginning of the project all powders produced by small scale HEBM and derived products have been characterized following specific guidelines to allow a further analysis and comparison with powders and derived products coming from pilot scale HEBM machine. The definition of the parameters for sintering and SPS, the methodology for HVOF and CGS deposition and the guidelines for the additive manufacturing by DLS and SLS were achieved and the qualification of the 3 product lines is proceeding.
Regarding the product line 1, production processes by hot pressing, free-sintering technique and advanced SPS were evaluated and optimized for the manufacturing of cutting tools from HEBM powders provided by MBN. The powders and process parameters were selected and defined for the pilot production of cutting tools started with further optimization of the production process and the properties of the products; it was evaluated the cutting behaviour and the tool life of cutting discs and beads, validated and optimized the material for the production of cutting inserts by SPS.
For the product line 2, CGS process for different classes of materials was optimized: Ti-WC (spraying testing, development of heat treatment, abrasion and erosion resistance evaluation), FAC-Al (spraying trials and start negotiation about the inner coatings with the car industry representatives) and Ti-SiC (old spray trials and process parameters evaluation).
It was performed spraying and extensive characterization of WC-based HVAF coatings and comparison to benchmark: microstructure, deposition efficiency, resistance against erosion/abrasion/corrosion. APS and HVOF spraying of FAC-Al powders and coating characterization was also evaluated. Involved partners worked with end-users for the definition of test parts and production of test parts for customers in several fields of application; tests were run in customers’ facilities and are ongoing.
For the product line 3 (Additive manufacturing) intensive sintering trials were performed to identify the parameters (and their combination) for DLS application for Ti-based and Ni-Cr materials; then it was proceed with the integration of the different HEBM materials on DLS machine and the development of process parameters in order to provide the guidelines for the use of DLS machines. For SLS technique, initially the general process parameter have been set and good surface quality and aesthetics were obtained, then the selected components were manufactured to evaluate surface quality and mechanical properties and define the production protocols for SLS.

Potential Impact:
The demonstration of the pilot manufacturing line will be completed, including both the technological validation of the pilot process and the economic qualification of the product lines. The optimization and production parameters of the selected materials of the three product lines derived from small scale HEBM will be further refined through a complete characterization of both powders and derived products.
The benchmarking of the PilotManu materials and products will be finalized using the characterization procedures defined in the project: clear picture about actual product benefits and costs of the selected products will be developed, with refinement of target market opportunities and pricing; target customers have been identified and contacted to validate the perceived benefits of each product: at the end, based upon confirmed product benefits, pricing, market opportunities and routes to market a primary business plan will be developed for each of ten products.

The main exploitable result achieved is the Pilot scale HEBM machine capable of delivering 100 kg/batch with increase process efficiency and reducing processing specific cost and, by using it, the partner MBN will be capable to manufacture and sell the materials for standard and SPS sintering technologies, thermal spraying, DLS technology and to produce and sell reinforced polymers and PP powder materials.

Thermal Spraying coatings by CGS and HVAF will be exploited with improved properties and/or reduced costs over current benchmark coatings.
PilotManu powders will be used in SPS technique to produce components for abrasive materials for the manufacturing and selling of pilot batches of special tools.
Partners will provide solutions (equipment sales) and consultancy for the use of Ti and Ni-based materials in the additive manufacturing by direct laser sintering process.
Selective Laser Sintering will be applied to produce parts with new materials as PP based powders
Pilot production of high performance abrasive materials for diamond cutting tools thanks to the mechanically alloyed materials at affordable costs will be realized.

The partners working in the powder characterization will continue to contribute to the definition of technical specifications for the different product-lines about powder requirements in relation to the powder transformation methods adopted; this partner will offer consultancy service to third parties.
Market insight of new materials and processing technology will be completely defined I with assistance in transferring new technologies and processes into existing or new manufacturing plants.
As further potential impact partners are expected to use processes and know-how developed during PilotManu also for other applications not considered during the project and, at the same time, HEBM pilot plant is expected to produce new kinds of materials in additions to the selected ones for the project.

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