Final Report Summary - CONFORM-JET (Self-Learning Control System for Freeform Milling with High Energy Fluid Jets)
Innovative control philosophies that enhance the capabilities of niche processing methods are of critical importance for EU manufacturers of high value added products made of advanced engineered materials. High Energy Fluid Jets (HEFJet) processing is a niche technology with outstanding capabilities: cuts any material at negligible cutting forces; generates virtual zero heat; uses the abrasive jet plume as a “universal tool”. Nevertheless, freeform machining by High Energy Fluid Jets Milling (HEFJet_Mill) is still at infancy level. This is because no control solution for HEFJet_Mill exists. ConforM-Jet has developed and demonstrated, for the first time, a self-learning control system for HEFJet_Mill to generate freeform parts. This has been done by integrating models of HEFJet_Mill with patterns of multi-sensory signals to control the outcomes of jet plume – workpiece interaction, i.e. magnitude and shape of abraded footprint; these are key issues in controlling the generation of freeforms via HEFJet_Mill. This was done via the following research steps: - Development of a novel integrative energy-based model of HEFJet_Mill. - Develop an innovative energy-based multi-sensing monitoring system for HEFJet_Mill. - Development of a radically new control system for HEFJet_Mill of freeforms that is equipped with novel abilities such as (i) Self-learning ability: Self-gauging of the energetic models of HEFJet_Mill vs. key energy-based sensory signals. Thus, whenever new working scenario occurs, updated models are employed by the model predictive controller. (ii) Self-adaptive ability: The energy-based sensory signals, trained with the data available in the process database, are taught to respond to process variations by feeding back the correct combination of process parameters. - Demonstrate ConforM-Jet control strategy on multi-axis HEFJet_Mill systems to generate aerospace, medical, and optical freeform components made of difficult-to-cut materials (Ni/Ti alloys, optical glass).
Project Context and Objectives:
Background and motivation:
The development of innovative control philosophies to enhance the capabilities of niche non-conventional processing techniques is of critical importance in building a strategic European expertise for the manufacture of high value added parts/products made of advanced engineered materials. This is becoming a stringent technology enabler in the current restrictive manufacturing environment when ever-more advanced, but difficult-to-cut, materials (e.g. Ni/Ti alloys, ceramics) are developed for advanced products such as aerospace (safety critical rotating), medical (implants, surgical), defence (smart sensing) and optical (customised lenses) components. In such instances, the lack of competitive processing techniques not only result in insufficient exploitation of the latest advanced engineered materials but also hinders the development of new high value added products on which European research and industry aims to excel.
A niche non-conventional machining technology is one that uses High Energy Fluid Jets (HEFJet).
HEFJet processing, such as Abrasive Waterjet (AWJ) and Abrasive Polishing Milling that operate at high (300barHEFJet processing offers a set off paramount advantages over the other competitive machining methods:
• Enables machining of difficult-to-cut materials (e.g. Ni/Ti alloys, ceramics) regardless of their properties.
• Involves very low specific cutting forces (<2N/mm2) at acceptable material removal rates (10-50mm3/s).
• Results in low cutting temperatures (<50C). Compared with conventional/non-conventional (EDM, Laser) machining.
• Uses a “universal cutting tool”, i.e. abrasive jet plume, of which the characteristics can be adjusted (e.g. pressure, grit specification, stand-off distance, jet tilt angle relative to target surface) to enable integrated manufacturing solutions (i.e. roughing & finishing & ultra polishing) in a single manufacturing cell to address the machining of a wide range of advanced engineered materials.
With these unique capabilities, HEFJet processing is regarded as a key enabling technology for the manufacture of complex geometry components made of notoriously difficult-to-cut materials such as those employed in aerospace (e.g. rotating parts, preformed components), medical (e.g. implants, laparoscopic tools), defence/sensing(e.g. smart actuators) and optical (e.g. high precision customised lenses) applications.
Despite the all these advantages, the manufacture of multi-gradient surfaces, i.e. freeforms, using High Energy Fluid Jet Milling (HEFJet_Mill) is still at incipient at “craftsmanship” level.
This is due to the complexity of the HEFJet_Mill process that poses the following main challenges:
• HEFJet_Mill uses a jet plume as a “soft-body” tool of which geometrical and abrasive characteristics depend on the process parameters and the jet footprint on the target surfaces. Considering solid (constant geometry) tools, the existent CAM packages are not capable of generating the paths for the HEFJet_Mill plumes.CAM tools that can generate the jet plume path for HEFJet_Mill do not exist.
• HEFJet_Mill results in a highly perturbed, but enclosed, workspace environment (mist of fluid and abrasive grits) where metrological equipment can hardly be used to on-line assess parts’ geometrical accuracies. At the moment, only off-line inspection of the parts’ geometrical accuracy is employed.
• Monitoring solutions (e.g. force, power) used in other machining processes are either inefficient or cannot cope with the harsh working environment. Without gauging robust sensory signals against critical process outputs (e.g. intensity of abraded footprint), the control of HEFJet_Mill process is very difficult to be achieved.
At the moment, HEFJet_Mill of freeforms is at infancy stage because: HEFJet_Mill is not controlled, that is due to lack of feedback loop, that is due to lack of gauging sensory signals vs. models of the HEFJet_Mill output measures, that is due to lack of models for the jet plume – workpiece interactions.
Apart from these technical short comings, in its current status, HEFJet_Mill process is heavily relying on the human intervention (≈ 30% of running costs are labour related) . In such scenarios, it is no wonder that HEFJet_Mill technology needs a technological breakthrough to enable efficient and knowledge intensive exploitation (i.e. freeforms generation) of these unique capabilities of HEFJet process.
To overcome this situation, ConforM-Jet aims to develop and demonstrate a fundamentally novel self-learning control system for High Energy Fluid Jet Milling (HEFJet_Mill) to enable the generation of multi-gradient surfaces, i.e. freeforms.
In ConforM-Jet concept, a freeform is a Final Multi-Gradient (FMG) surface obtained via HEFJet_Mill from an Initial Multi-Gradient (IMG) surface. FMG and IMG are not necessarily “twin” surfaces; they can have different gradients. This implies that the stock of material to be removed from IMG to obtain FMG surface can vary at each “infinitesimal” moment during the HEFJet_Mill process. Generated freeforms with HEFJet_Mill are dependent on a number of key process parameters (e.g. grit flow, traverse speed, pressure, etc.).
The ConforM-Jet concept integrates the models of high energy fluid jets with multi-sensorial monitoring solutions to predict and control the outcomes of jet plume – workpiece interaction (i.e. geometry of Abraded Footprint), the key element in controlling the generation of freeforms via HEFJet_Mill. Once the modelling – sensing integration is achieved, this is used to develop a radically novel control strategy for HEFJet_Mill, that supported by adequate machine learning algorithms, will lead to the development of the next-generation HEFJet_Mill production systems capable of freeforms generation in various working scenarios (e.g. advanced materials) and with limited human intervention.
In summary, the ConforM-Jet concept relies on the following succession of elements : Study of HEFJet_Mill enabling the modelling of its key elements–the geometries and the energy distributions within the jet plume and abraded footprint – and the evaluation of their energy-related (Acoustic Emission – AE) sensory signals that are input into the self-learning module for their (model vs. signal) calibration and formation of an appropriate process database. The calibrated models are then used to develop the model predictive controller that supported with a dedicated CAM system (for HEFJet_Mill process) will enable the generation of the theoretical path of the jet plume. This is in a form of a succession of “infinitesimal and unique” jet footprints, each of them characterised by a set of operating process parameters in such a way that they locally map the required (freeform) surface. The theoretical path of the jet plume is then input into the self-adaptive module that also receives real-time sensorial (AE) information indicating the status of the real abraded footprint that contributes to the generation of the freeform surface. Based on this information, the self-adaptive module will make the necessary adjustments to key process variables thus bringing the HEFJet_Mill process on the required performance (i.e. desired abraded footprint). Furthermore, information (e.g. errors of footprints) resulting from the process adaptation is fed into the self-learning module to refine/update the knowledge on the HEFJet_Mill process leading to efficient (i.e. reduced human intervention) response of the ConforM-Jet system when new working scenarios (e.g. new freeforms/ workpiece materials) are considered.
The ConforM-Jet concept has led to the development and demonstration of the first self-learning control system for HEFJet_Mill capable of dealing with advanced applications (i.e. freeform generation in difficult-to-cut materials) to address niche and high value added European (e.g. aerospace, medical, optical) industries. The ConforM-Jet control system addresses the use of both high and low pressure HEFJet_Mill processing, thus allowing an integrated approach of roughing, finishing and polishing of freeform surfaces made of advanced engineered materials; the competitive (non) conventional processes can hardly offer the same abilities. In this scenario, the ConforM-Jet concept not only takes HEFJet_Mill technology to a radically new level of exploitation (freeform generation) but also defines concepts of control strategies that can be exploited by other, less competitive, (density) energy-dependent non-conventional processes (e.g. EDM) enhancing their freeform generation capabilities. Thus, ConforM-Jet control approach is synergetic with other production technologies.
To materialise the ConforM-Jet concept, the following major objectives have been successively met:
1. Develop a novel integrative (jet plume & abraded footprint) energy-related modelling for HEFJet_Mill
2. Develop a unique energy-related (acoustic emission) multi-sensor monitoring system for HEFJet_Mill.
3. Develop, for the first time, a control system for HEFJet_Mill of freeforms equipped with key abilities:
Self-learning ability. Self-gauging of the integrative energetic models of HEFJet_Mill vs. key energy-related sensory signals. Thus, whenever new a working scenario occurs, updated models will be employed by the model predictive controller.
Self-adaptive ability. The energy-related sensory signals, trained with the data available in the process database, will be taught to respond to process variations by feeding back the correct combination of process parameters.
4. Demonstrate ConforM-Jet control strategy on (high and low pressure) multi-axis HEFJet_Mill production systems to generate complex geometry parts made of advanced materials (Ni/Ti alloys, optical glass) for high value added manufacturing (aerospace, medical, optical) industries (Table 1). ConforM-Jet has demonstrated its self-learning ability by increasing the HEFJet_Mill efficiency and robustness for generating freeforms in various working scenarios with limited human intervention.
These objectives have been achieved through five interlinked technical work packages (WP) (WP1-WP5) supported by management (WP0) and dissemination activities (WP6).
The Table 1 below shows the description and the partner responsible for each work-package, where WPL represents the WP leader.
Table 1: List of work packages (WP) and partners responsible (WPL = WP leader)
WP 0: Management Coordinator: UNOTT, Prof. Axinte
WP 1: Architecture of ConforM-Jet Platform WPL: Zeeko, Mr. Freeman
WP 2: Novel integrative modelling of HEFJet_Mill WPL: UACH, Prof. D. Weiss
WP 3: Novel monitoring system for HEFJet_Mill WPL: UNOTT, Prof. D. Axinte
WP 4: Radically new control system for HEFJet_Mill WPL: Tekniker, Dr. L. Uriarte
WP 5: Demonstration of ConforM-Jet system WPL: Waterjet, Mr. W. Maurer
WP 6: Promotion – Exploitation – Training WPL: KTH, Prof. M. Nicolescu
Work-package (WP) 1 - Architecture of ConforM-Jet Platform (Zeeko)
Summary of the WP
WP1 ran from the very beginning of the project until month 39 and consisted in 4 tasks and 4 deliverables, which were all produced on-time. All project partners played a role in this WP.
During T1.1 which spanned the first 6 months of the project, the architecture of the ConforM-Jet platform was defined and reported in D1.1: “Detailed definition of the ConforM-Jet platform”. This was achieved by collecting, analysing and summarising inputs from the partners on their current process, machines and parts of interest.
This initial task was then followed by the nearly concurrent development of key components of the platform: namely, the CAD/CAM software that enables freeform components milling on high pressure waterjet machines using the jet models from WP2 and the integrated onboard metrology capability that allows in-situ characterization of freeform components and milling footprints.
The CAD/CAM modules were produced within T1.2 which started at M6 and ended at M28 with the D1.3 report: “CAD/CAM Modules with Integrated Jet Models”.
The onboard metrology solution was developed in T1.3 between M9 and M29. The initial prototype system developed in this task has been documented in the M26 D1.2 report: “Integrated Onboard Metrology”.
The final task, T1.4: “Validation of Self-Learning and adaptive capabilities as unitary ConforM-Jet platform” took place between M26 and end of M39. At that time, the self-learning and self-adaptive capabilities had been validated and the process documented in the accompanying D1.4 report: “Validated self-learning and self-adaptive capabilities”.
As WP1 approached its end, it smoothly evolved towards supporting WP5, in particular for the use of its deliverables, as required by the demonstration.
Summary of all major breakthroughs and innovations:
• Development of on-machine metrology that is compatible with AWJM machines
• Selection of a system with a measuring technique compatible with the machining environment and capable of measuring the artefacts of interest.
• Implementation of communication protocols between the machines of interest and the measurement system.
• Development of metrology fixtures guaranteeing the integrity of the system and repeatability of the measurements.
• Development of a dedicated CAD/CAM platform for AWJM of freeform surfaces.
• No such CAD/CAM software for milling with a jet plume (a soft body tool requiring dwell time control) existed prior to this work.
• This software includes the novel footprint model developed in WP2 and the self-learning module developed in WP4. Providing a user-friendly interface to these unique advanced features as well as seamless integration in the generation of CNC files for milling.
• The software also supports the on-machine metrology setup: generation of CNC files for measurement and processing of the resulting measurement.
• It essentially provides all the features needed for such milling in a single package.
WP2: Novel integrative modelling of HEFJet_Mill
Summary of the WP:
A key part of the project has been the development of a model for the prediction of the footprint of an AWJ as a function of the various system parameters, such as pump pressure, grit flow rate, feed speed and standoff distance. Two separate models have been developed: the first is for the characteristics of the jet plume, whilst the second is for the workpiece abrasion process.
The model for the jet plume consists of four parts: the first describes the creation of the water jet at the orifice; the second the entrainment of air and abrasive particles within the mixing chamber; the third the three-phase-flow within the focusing tube; the fourth the free jet downstream of the exit of the tube. At the heart of the model is a set of balance equations that relate the flow quantities averaged over cross-sections in the focussing tube. The model was validated using data obtained from several experimental test rigs, as well as from numerical simulations of multiphase flow.
The model for the workpiece abrasion process is based on a partial differential equation for the evolution of the workpiece under the action of the jet. It is calibrated from measurements of three or more shallow, straight trenches milled with the axis of the jet at different angles to the path. This determines a basic jet footprint and parameters used in sub-models that describe the effect of non-normal impingement and variable distance from the nozzle. After calibration, the model allows us to predict the surface milled by successive passes of the jet, even if they overlap, at a reasonable range of feed speeds. When the system parameters are changed, the model is adjusted, but not recalibrated, based on a new prediction of the energy density in the jet obtained from the jet plume model.
Both models have been validated by means of extensive series of experiments. Predicted and measured quantities are in good agreement. The models have been linked and integrated into a Matlab® software tool, named ConforM-Jet Waterjet 1.0 © 2012.
Summary of all major breakthroughs and innovations
• Model to describe the energy distribution of abrasive particles
• 1D model to balance the flow quantities within the focussing tube
• Measurement technique to determine abrasive particle dynamics within a HEFJet
• Model to describe the abrasive footprint
• Software and interface to determine the abrasive footprint to given operation parameters
WP3: Novel monitoring system for HEFJet_Mill
Summary of the WP:
High Energy Fluid Jet Milling (HEFJet_Mill) is an enabling technology for generating complex geometries; however, the lack of methods for online monitoring of jet penetration (i.e. area of abraded footprint) makes difficult to control the quality of the process. WP3 was focused on establishing the monitoring system for HEFJet_Mill which forms the basis of the self-calibrating predictive monitoring and control system in ConforM-Jet. During the course of this work package multi sensorial system comprised of pressure, position, force and acoustic emission sensors is designed and developed to monitor and supervise the HEFJet_Mill process and several tasks, deliverables and milestones were completed.
Task 3.1 and deliverable D3.1 were delivered on month 4 where the process monitoring setup specifications were determined. They were followed by building of a multi-sensorial prototype (Milestone M3.1) at the end of month 8. Task 3.2 finished by a report on advancements of multi-sensorial system for monitoring HEFJet_Mill as well as deliverable D3.2 on month 12. During the course of this task ruggedization capability of the sensorial system and effectiveness of the sensory signals were measured and evaluated.
In month 20 progresses on Task 3.3 “influence of each key process parameter on the (energetic) sensorial outputs” were reported through calibration of multi-sensing system against energy measures in the context of milestone M3.2. Consequently, full factorial design for the acoustic emission energy based on the key process parameters was established. In month 24, Task 3.3 finished by report of the most important deliverable, deliverable D3.3 of this work package that defines the energy signal model of HEFJet_Mill. The outcome of this is integrated in the control system developed in WP4 by Tekniker.
Testing of algorithms for budgeting of jet energy was reported at the same time (month 24) through milestone M3.3 as part of Task 3.4 which was started in month 21. This led to the design and development of software for automatic energy-related signal budgeting for on-line applications. The work package finished in month 27 by completion of the Task 3.4 and submission of the deliverable D3.4.
Summary of all major breakthroughs and innovations
• A multisensory system comprised of acoustic emission, force, pressure designed for comprehensive monitoring of abrasive waterjet milling process.
• A method based on acoustic emission presented to control the jet penetration on AWJ milling, by introducing a new concept, Transfer Rate of Energy (TRE) that links the input jet energy, area of abraded footprint and jet feed velocity and exploiting its property to remain constant for particular set of key parameters.
• A modular platform and fixture with integrated sensors and electronics was designed and manufactured for abrasive waterjet milling.
• The monitoring methodology was demonstrated over a wide range of process parameters and it is employed in the closed-loop control system of abrasive waterjet milling in WP4 so that complex features can be generated with minimum human intervention.
WP4: Radically new control system for HEFJet_Mill
Summary of the WP:
WP4 ran from month 18 of the project until month 38 and consisted in 2 main tasks and 4 deliverables, which were all produced on-time. Project partners playing a role in this WP were Tekniker, UNOTT, Zeeko and KTH.
During T4.1 which spanned for 14 months, the ConforM-Jet self-learning module was developed and reported in deliverables D4.1: “Optimisation of the algorithms to be used in the self-learning module” and D4.2 “Self-learning module”. A software tool that gathers data during the tests to “learn” about the process and improves the accuracy of the models and/or prediction procedures used in the ConforM-Jet platform has been delivered as final outcome of this task. The idea behind the self-learning module is to refine the model efficiently when more experimental data is available using nonlinear regression techniques that search for the best combination of the empirical parameters in the model (namely k and b). These parameters are usually set-up by trial and error, however the self-learning provides appropriate values for the model parameters by using already acquired test data.
During T4.2 which spanned for 11 months, the ConforM-Jet self-adaptive module was developed and reported in deliverables D4.3: “Optimisation of algorithms to be used in the self-adaptive module” and D4.4 “Control system for HEFJet_Mill including self-adaptive module”. A self-adaptive controller has been implemented in the ConforM-Jet controller box that operates the waterjet machine. The self-adaptive module is designed to make corrections and respond to anomalous events and footprint errors due to clogging (abrasive grits totally/partially blocking the jet exit) and other phenomena. Based on the information provided by the monitoring system developed in WP3, it can be estimated if under or over erosions might be taking place at the workpiece. The expected footprint errors can be mitigated by varying the feed speed according to the monitored errors and the models developed in WP2. The ConforM-Jet controller (which includes the self-learning and the self-adaptive software modules) has been specially designed for compatibility with the demonstration machine and includes all the elements required to turn a regular waterjet machine into the final ConforM-Jet system
As WP4 was coming to an end, the role of the partners involved in this WP evolved towards supporting WP5, in particular for the use of the generated self-learning and self-adaptive modules as required by the demonstration.
Summary of all major breakthroughs and innovations
• A methodology for model calibration based on acquired data has been developed (self-learning module). The developed algorithm allows to refine the models used for footprint prediction (used within the newly developed CAM system) to get more robust and accurate results.
• A first version of a new control system based on AE signal feedback has been developed for online footprint correction (self-adaptive module)
• The developed algorithms and routines have been implemented in a stand-alone control box that can be quickly connected to a regular system in order to turn it into a Conform-Jet platform for freeform waterjet milling. All associated hardware/software challenges such as communication issues, signal synchronization and external access to the machine CNC controller have been solved.
WP5: Demonstration of freeform HEFJet_Mill
Summary of the WP:
WP5 ran from month 29 of the project until the end of the project and consisted in 3 main tasks and 3 deliverables, which were all produced on-time. All project partners were involved in this WP as it is the culmination of all the previous WPs within the project.
During task 5.1 which spanned for 5 months, the so called ConforM-Jet “tryout machine” was developed. The “tryout machine” is an industrial waterjet cutting machine, at WATERJet, equipped with sensors and data acquisition equipment which has been developed in the project and is intended to be used in the final ConforM-Jet platform. This "tryout machine” setup will serve for preliminary and limited adaptation of the ConforM-Jet control strategy to existing industrial automation systems. The outcome of this task was reported in deliverable D5.1: “Assessment of preliminary implementation of middleware ConforM-Jet system into "tryout machine"”.
During task 5.2 which spanned for 13 months, an assessment of the ConforM-Jet system implemented in an industrial HEFJet_Mill system and its associated capabilities was carried out. The ConforM-Jet system was implemented in an industrial microwaterjet cutting machine at WATERjet AG’s facilities. The new demonstration machine was equipped with sensors, data acquisition equipment, an external controller, online metrology capabilities and all the associated modifications to allow the implementation of all these functionalities. The results were reported in deliverable D5.2: “Capability of the ConforM-Jet system demonstrated on industrial HEFJet_Mill production systems”.
This workpackage concluded with task, T5.3: “Demonstration of freeform HEFJet_Mill for end-user products”, which started at M42 and lasted until the very end of the project. This task produced one of the key deliverable of the project with the milling on the ConforM-Jet platform of freeform components proposed by the end-users (BAE, ELLA and Zeeko). Those formed D5.3: “Freeform components generated with ConforM-Jet system”, which was completed by a report describing the setup, components, process and samples analysis.
Summary of all major breakthroughs and innovations:
• Several waterjet milling strategies have been explored and analysed in order to determine the best approaches to be implemented within the CAM routine for optimal waterjet milling NC program generation.
• The capabilities of the Conform-Jet system have been demonstrated in different parts and target materials:
a. Pockets in an aircraft duct model made of Ti-6Al-4V proposed by BAE to evaluate the ability to remove the brittle alpha-case layer that is introduced during the component forming process.
b. Biomedical implant made of titanium alloy for bone replacement proposed by ELLA with focus on a subsection of a freeform multigradient surface that is difficult to machine with conventional machining technologies.
c. Spherical optical lenses surfaces in glass and glass-ceramic proposed by Zeeko to evaluate the capability to shape such materials
• Although further process development is still necessary, towards better surface finishes and reduced processing time (which were not within the scope of the project) to enable this technology for supplanting the conventional machining solutions against which it was considered, it is already a possible solution for niche applications.
WP6: Dissemination – Training – Exploitation
Summary of the WP:
The work package 6 has the following objectives
• To actively disseminate the on-going research and engineering results of ConforM-Jet to industry /potential technology users via workshops/conferences, publications in scientific/engineering journals, brokerage sessions, communications to Groups of Interests (e.g. waterjet associations).
• To carry out training activities on ConforM-Jet capabilities for both specialists and general users to enable a new class of processing technology, i.e. HEFJet_Mill, on which EU lacks strength.
• To continuously exploit the ConforM-Jet results by transferring them, in accordance with the project IPR stipulations, into a broad EU engineering environment.
Summary of all major achievements:
To ensure that all ConforM-Jet results are disseminated in a traceable manner during the entire duration of the project and a systematic exploitation activity is performed, the Plan for Using and Dissemination of Foregrounds was established and regularly updated. The plan considers the main dissemination, training and exploitation activities and contains updating of all outcomes achieved during progress life. Also, the exploitation plan extends over the project life to allow for industrial implementation of the main results.
As regard to the industrial implementation, already the start of the project envisaged two levels of strategic impacts,
Level 1: Impact at the level of technology end-users – manufacturers of parts and products
The manufacture of specialised (e.g. aerospace, medical, optical) products/components made of difficult-to-cut materials is a time consuming activity since they have to comply with very tight quality requirements. ConforM-Jet makes available to European manufactures a self-learning and highly capable manufacturing system that will be able to sustain the production of high value added products.
Level 2: Impact at the level of machine tool builders
The design and integration of HEFJet systems is a high knowledge intensive machine tool building sector that has been displaying encouraging trends in selling growths. By developing critical abilities (i.e. specialised CAM, sensorial systems and control strategy) for HEFJet_Mill, ConforM-Jet gives to European machine tool builders a good opportunity to get into a new business market, namely: the manufacture of HEFJet systems with milling capabilities. Additionally, only in the micro-machining field, the impact of HEFJet systems is predicted to have approx. 15% of the total market. This will give to the European machine tool builders and manufacturers a competitive advantage over the main competitor in the field (e.g. USA, Japan).
Another important document that guided the activities in the WP6 is the Technology Implementation Plan which outlines the present and future intended exploitation of the results from the ConforM-Jet project, including both academic and industrial results. The technology implementation plan (TIP) specifies the strategy of how ConforM-Jet research results and demonstration activities can be exploited during and after the project. For the European Commission, the role of the TIP is to measure the impact of their R&D programmes and to identify genuine exploitable results. The document both gives a summary of the project, as well as a forecast of the intentions of the contractors. This document is a working document and will be changed throughout the project. The TIP was written by the Exploitation Manager and the Coordinator with inputs from all project partners. The TIP consists of three parts, where each part is divided into several chapters.
Summary of Dissemination activities
1. Pro-active use of the ConforM-Jet website to disseminate project results to General Public (free access), specialists (free controlled technical data) and project beneficiaries (secure access).
The website used to raise public awareness on the project’s results. Links to ConforM-Jet webpage are available from all partner’s institution home pages. The project webpage consists in two sections, the public and the confidential sections. Both section are periodically updated with information and documents produced by partners. This activity is performed mainly by NOTT nevertheless each partner has the possibility to upload various files and documents. On the public part of the web page, the ConforM-Jet posters have been published. The website has been visited by > 4000 unique visitors (companies and universities); downloading the flyer (50% of the unique visitors) with a success rate of 35% returning.
2. Organization of the workshops.
1st Workshop, November 25th 2011 at KTH, Stockholm, Sweden. The venue enjoyed the participation from both industry and academia. Posters describing the progress in the project were prepared by the participants. The one-day workshop included both presentations and demonstrations. The workshop welcomed around 20 participants external to the European project. Amongst the participants, representatives from industrial entities such as KIMTECH and Siemens (Sweden), SAAB Aeronautics, UHDE high Pressure Technologies and KMT (Germany), Aquapro (Austria), PTV spol. s r.o. (Czech Republic), Tecnalia (Spain).
2nd ConforM-Jet Workshop, 19 September 2013 at Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), London. At the venue 40 guests participated from industry and academia. The workshop consisted in presentations, posters and demonstration sessions.
The purpose of workshops is to disseminate project results to Interest Groups. The networks behind Swedish and Swiss Waterjet Associations (represented in EA Board) as well as other EU (e.g. Italian) and worldwide (American - WJTA, Australian) similar associations has been invited to the first workshop. The workshop has been organized for one day and consisted in two parts, one with presentation about the new possibilities offered by the project achievements and in the afternoon a practical session.
3. Organisation and participation in scientific/engineering gatherings (e.g. conferences, workshops, fairs) as well as academic/professional publications
Ten papers have been published (related to modelling of the abrasion process) in journals; 3 conference papers (process monitoring and jet modelling); 6 open presentations to scientific gatherings have been delivered on the ConforM-Jet scope and topic.
4. European Waterjet Association
ConforM-Jet is the catalyst of the foundation of the first European Waterjet association. 15 participants from Sweden, France, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy have expressed their support. EWJCA has officially been registered. The 1st European Waterjet Association, EWJCA, hold the first meeting in November in Stockholm. ConforM-Jet initiator of EWJCA and chairman is Mr. Maurer from WATERJet. One of the important tasks of association is to organize the work for Support ISO standard on quality of surfaces cut with waterjet. The Logo for the EWJCA was also designed.
5. Other dissemination activities
At the Manufuture Conference in Vilnius, October 10th, ConforM-Jet participated at the posters session.
Summary of the Training activities:
The purpose of the training programme is to deliver the knowledge in:
• Basic principles of waterjet technology and associated calculations
• Learn ConforM-Jet application techniques that will allow you to achieve improvement of process and part accuracy
• Understanding and using part programming
• Understanding and implementing safe work practices
• Full understanding of the ConfroM Jet equipment.
Training activities in ConforM-Jet consisted in two levels of activities. Level 1: Teaching material development and Level 2: Training delivering and training activities validation.
Exploiting their experience in education and making use of existent waterjet research centres, UNOTT, UACH and KTH have been the hubs of training and educational activities in related to ConforM-Jet. The main activities related to training:
• Defining the training work plan that specifies the general and specific training needs on HEFJet_Mill & ConforM-Jet system along with appropriate guidelines and timetables. The final version of the Training guidelines & general training work plan was developed. The training plan addresses two target groups, operators and production engineers. The duration for training session is proposed to be from 3 to 5 days.
• Design training programmes to attract interest from both industry and research communities at different stages of the project development: e.g. basic principles of HEFJet_Mill; hands-on HEFJet system operation, jet path programming (CAD/CAM), troubleshooting of HEFJet system, control of HEFJet_Mill equipped with ConforM-Jet system. This will be achieved via:
• Synchronisation of training needs with the project milestones.
• Routing the training programmes along categories of exploitation domains: end-users of technology; machine tool builders.
• Structure the training at different specialisation levels: operators, engineers, researchers.
The ConforM-Jet Training session was organized, 9th April 2012 in Aarwangen.
Training Session Evaluation
At the end of the training session each participant was asked to fill in a evaluation form for the training day. The evaluation form consists of three parts. The first part was about the training offering, instruction material, laboratory work, content of the lectures. The second part was related to the communication instructor and student:
• Knowledge of the Subject matter,
• Preparation for the lecture,
• Communicated material effectively, Responded Well to questions
• Established Positive Rapport with Students
• Well Prepared for the Laboratory
• The third part consisted in comments from the student concerning:
• Feasibility of Waterjet Milling
• Clarity in Demonstration the Potential of Waterjet Milling
• Interest in Implementation to Waterjet Milling
• Replacing Conventional Methods
• Interest to Participate to an Extensive Training in Waterjet Milling
Summary of the Exploitation activities:
In accordance with the IPR project regulations the results of ConforM-Jet will be exploited in the broad EU engineering environment where commercial applications (e.g. new products and machines), cost reductions (e.g. minimal human supervision, faster processing) and technical innovation (e.g. use of free forms in advanced materials) will be stimulated. KTH will work in close collaboration with the Dissemination and Exploitation Officer to:
• Prepare, update and monitor the Technology Implementation Plan specifying the strategy of how ConforM-Jet research results and demonstration activities can be exploited during and after the project.
• Sustain (e.g. brokerage), advise (e.g. patenting guidance) and coordinate exploitation activities to ensure that EU industries are aware and benefit from ConforM-Jet findings.
• Flag-up opportunities (i.e. feasibility studies) and advise (e.g. provide step-by-step registration routes) on creation of spin-off companies as exploitation routes of the project.
Exploitable knowledge and its use is presented in a tabular form with the main outcomes from the project in the PUDF.
List of Patentable Results:
• Self Learning Control System - WP4 (Tekniker)
• Jet Plume Predictive Model - WP2 (UACH)
• Abraded footprint model for milling control - WP2 (UNOTT)
• Multi-sensor system for monitoring of energy-related magnitude of the abraded footprint - WP3 (UNOTT)
• Adaptive control system - WP4 (Tekniker)
• On-board metrology system – WP1 (Zeeko)
• HEF Jet Milling waterjet machine – WP5 (Finecut)
• Machine system for H/L pressure – WP 5 (Zeeko)
Impact at European dimension - societal objectives and EU policies
i) Contribution to European societal objectives
• Improvement of quality of life of EU citizens.
HEFJet machining is a material removal process which is not sensitive to any mechanical or thermal properties of the workpiece materials. It can shape practically any parts provided the technical specifications are within the capabilities of the process. HEFJet machining finds it niche use on generating parts with reduced stiffness (e.g. implants in Ti6Al4V for bone/tissue recovery – as machined by WaterJet for Swiss medical) and those made of thermally sensitive materials such as Shape Memory Alloys (as those targeted by Ella. Thus, it can be easily noted that even during the duration of the projects, ConforM-Jet has proven its impact in generating products that can improve the quality of life of the EU citizens.
In addition, the multiple seminars/workshops/presentations to conferences/ media releases that the Consortium has been delivered to a wide range of industries (from aerospace to jewellery) is likely to “free the imagination” of product developers to use smart materials in various products. By setting the HEFJet machining on the agenda of the manufacturers of advanced products, ConforM-Jet contributes to the improvement on the quality of life of EU citizens.
Further, HEFJet milling (without abrasives) is able to replace the electro-chemical machining (ECM) of aerospace components (see shallow pockets made in Ti6Al4V for BAE). Although the costing case needs of replacing the ECM with HEFJet milling is to be done by BAE Systems, it is very obvious that not employing any chemicals (that require specific safety measures, post-treatment for safe disposal) and in the view that European standards in use of non-environmental fluids is likely to get even tighter, ConforM-Jet has been very successful in promoting HEFJet_Mill as an environmentally friendly processing method when compared to conventional machining operations. HEFJet_Mill proved that does not need coolants (with their inherent disposal problems and possible health hazards) but result only in a fine mixture of abrasive grits and workpiece materials; at the moment recycling technologies are in place to put this waste into bricks. Therefore, ConforM-Jet has been a good showcase for promoting HEFJet milling as and environmentally friendly processing method.
Although HEFJet machining is highly versatile process, prior to ConforM-Jet developments, it needed significant supervision and upfront preparations to set the process for a particular application. With its self-learning controller, ConforM-Jet lead to reduced machine supervision (by ca. 79%) and development times (by ca. 200%) that give a good indication on how the project contributes the improvement of the working conditions in EU companies when utilising the HEFJet systems.
• Improvement of employment, training and education.
Supporting a niche technology the ConforM-Jet has contributed to the increase EU business opportunities for both end-users (which design new products) and machine tool builders (which will launch unique HEFJet_Mill machines). The end-users of various industries (e.g. medical, aerospace, automotive, food production) have been informed through several media releases (see list of dissemination activities) of the capabilities of the ConforM-Jet systems and this is likely to have led to an increase of EU employment (especially in engineering field). For example WaterJet A.G. as a machine tool builder, has employed 2 technicians full time working on products that uses ConforM-Jet system as a tool to assist and conduct their waterjet cutting. The same Zeeko, as a developer of fluid polishing machines, is employing 1 engineer to develop further the CAD/CAM system for HEFJet milling. UNOTT and Tekniker have employed 2 PhD researchers and 2 engineers respectively, to continue the work initially developed within this project. Furthermore, the ConforM-Jet project was the base for the proposal of the STEEP ITN which generated over 15 research jobs; thus, supporting a new technology, ConforM-Jet contributed to the attraction of young graduates to the engineering production sector; one European enabler for economic growth. If these examples are extrapolated to other potential end-users/industries, it can be commented that ConforM-Jet has been successful in generating new EU jobs.
More importantly, ConforM-Jet has strengthened the position of European knowledge-intensive production industry (and its employees) opposing the high labour intensive countries (e.g. China, India). The ConforM-Jet Consortium is now aware that the technology competitors (e.g. Flow – USA) have been overtaken in to the field of HEFJet-Milling in terms of the precision of the milled surfaces, CAD/CAM packages, embedded metrology, unsupervised processing, control. What ConforM-Jet system can do, the competitors cannot achieve. Moreover, supporting a new technology, ConforM-Jet will also contribute to the attraction of young graduates to the engineering production sector; one European enabler for economic growth.
Addressing a new technology, ConforM-Jet contributed in attracting more candidates for specialized vocational engineering education programmes to address the workforce need for newly emerging engineering businesses. This has been done by organising one training for technicians at Waterjet A.G. with a participation of 10 technicians from different industries. ConforM-Jet has contributed that higher engineering knowledge was gathered into the EU workforce pool.
ii) Contribution to European policies
Through its multi-disciplinary research approach into a fast emerging production method, ConforM-Jet made a technological breakthrough: development of the first self-learning control system for HEFJet_Mill capable to generate freeform surfaces with reduced human intervention.
ConforM-Jet ability to generate high added-value products within EU resides in the following:
• By employing the ConforM-Jet control platform, the European machine tool builders, i.e. WaterJet A.G. and Zeeko are the first in the world to manufacture/integrate HEFJet_Mill systems and therefore, it is expected to entirely (by appropriate patenting) occupy a niche market.
• With its self-learning and self-adaptive abilities, the ConforM-Jet platform enables HEFJet_Mill systems to work with reduced human supervision and at reduced operational costs evolving this technology at a level of knowledge-intensive technology. Thus, more HEFJet milling systems can be operated by a single technician without affecting the quality of the processed parts.
• Capable of generating complex geometry (i.e. freeforms) components of practically any material regardless of their machinability indexes, ConforM-Jet has open excellent opportunities for high value-added industries (e.g. aerospace, medical, optical) industries to launch new products made of advanced engineered material that up to now could be hardly machined with available processes. This can be initially linked to end-users directly involved in ConforM-Jet but also to other industries such as MEMS, micro-precision (e.g. watch makers) systems and even jewellery.
• Since HEFJet processing is a niche technology that requires specialised equipment (most of it produced in knowledge intensive SMEs) ConforM-Jet has stimulated the creation of a European knowledge hub into this field with great potential for further innovation at both micro (equipment/component tier suppliers) and systems integrators; suppliers of equipment for ConforM-Jet such as, STILL, Kistler, NUM etc, are likely to benefit from these developments as in the future they will increase their sales related to HEFJet milling systems.
ConforM-Jet has increased the EU business opportunities for both end-users (capable now to design new products made of advanced, but difficult-to-cut materials) and machine tool builders (launching unique HEFJet_Mill machines). This will be reflected by an increase of employment and strengthen the position of European knowledge-intensive production industry.
ConforM-Jet has been the leader behind the formation of the European WaterJet Cutting Association (http://ewjca.com/english.html) and for the promotion of an ISO standard in the field of quality of parts produced waterjet cutting.
ConforM-Jet partners have done up to now 8 media releases (through interviewing and articles).
All the above activities prove that ConforM-Jet consortium not only made an impact on the Consortium but to wider industry and applications.
Main dissemination activities and exploitation of results
Areas of potential continuation of technical development
It is agreed between the project partners that any ongoing research work on the ConforM-Jet would be completed beyond the end of the project, where involved partners will continue to provide the necessary support (e.g. software training).
Furthermore, future and ongoing collaborations will continue among partners in current projects such as STEEP project and future project proposals related to the outcomes of ConforM-Jet.
Partners agreed to liaise with each other regarding the use of the equipment and various piece of software that have been developed during the life of the project for further development, improvement and exploitation in future works.
WATERjet AG has already expressed its interest in commercialising the ConforM-Jet system; essential modifications would have to happen before the system can actually be brought up on the industrial market. In particular, the machine would have to be downsized and be cheaper in production. WATERjet is also considering the possibility of registering ConforM-Jet as a trademark.
Finally, in order to keep continuity in the dissemination of the project, UNOTT will carry on supporting the domain name Conformjet.eu and hosting the website until WATERjet AG is able to take over.
List of Websites:
Project website address: http://www.conformjet.eu/
Name: Prof. Dragos Axinte
Tel: +44 (0)115 951 4117