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A Synergetic Training Network on Energy beam Processing: from Modelling to Industrial Applications

Final Report Summary - STEEP (A Synergetic Training Network on Energy beam Processing: from Modelling to Industrial Applications)

Energy Beam (EB) processing is now emerging as a key enabler for the manufacture of high-value nano/micro (e.g. nanomemory devices), micro/meso (e.g. micro-moulding) and macro (e.g. textured surfaces for aerospace sectors) components and products. With the use of more advanced but difficult-to-cut materials, on ever-more sophisticated products, the need to further develop and utilise the particular capabilities of EB processing techniques is set to become a key enabler for the European industry. Although they are of varying natures, a set of key communalities can be identified among EB methods when considered as dwell-time dependent processes; this allows the treatment of EB processes under a unitary technology umbrella.

In this context, and based on a multidisciplinary pool of knowledge, the STEEP ITN has established a European research training platform to enable a holistic approach to EB processing methods. The STEEP training programme takes the technology from the modelling and validation of its key aspects (i.e. beam footprint) to the development of simulation tools (i.e. beam path simulator) and the demonstration (e.g. on various EB workstations) by generating freeform surfaces.

STEEP has provided a coordinated programme of academic and industrial training, focused on Energy Beam processing via abrasive waterjet, pulsed laser, and focused ion beam. In order to further crucial developments in this area, a number of multi and inter-disciplinary challenges is addressed, from the conception of mathematical models of controlled material removal on EB processes, to their validation and implementation into dedicated software to enable the generation of freeforms on various workstations with minimum human intervention. This wide breadth of topics represents an excellent vehicle to train European researchers in complementary (e.g. maths – material processing – computing – machine simulation/control) areas and environments (academic, industrial) of EB processes so that a sustainable evolution of this group of technologies is achieved.

STEEP has developed a unified modelling platform for complementary technologies. Through its training network this project fills the gap in the European research personnel structure of EB technologies and provides opportunities to improve the career prospects of researchers by exposing them to academic courses and industrial developments within a multi-disciplinary environment of high EU industrial relevance. This project also provides end users with accurate and cost-effective EB processing methods and enables the manufacturers of workstations for EB processing with key capabilities (specialised software), which will enhance the sales of their products.

STEEP research project has been delivered in 4 work packages (WP1 - WP4). Three additional WPs handled Training (WP5), Dissemination and Exploitation (WP6) and Management (WP7). At the end of the second period virtually all the planned deliverables and milestones had been achieved and in many cases the scientific outputs have exceeded the envisaged targets. STEEP project managed to recruit 5 ERs and 3 ESRs in the second period, of whom 1 ER did not manage to finish his contract period, to fulfil all the requirements for the project. An encouraging number of scientific results have been presented in conferences and some of the work is published in first-tier academic journals, indicating the high standards of the scientific activities at all partners’ sites.

To achieve the training goals in the second period, the network continued its mission to maintain the comprehensive and structured learning environment of local and network-wide training opportunities. In the second period the prepared network toolkit and individualised career development plans, which was supported by the structured website on the internet, kept up to date as living documents to increase the training awareness of the fellows and partners.

The summer school in June 2015 offered industrial and academic lectures on the theoretical and practical aspects of beam processing (laser, water jet and focused ion beam).

STEEP workshop in February 2016 complemented the training in the previous schools by providing hands on training with the latest developments in the area of focused ion beam, networking opportunities with the industrial experts in the field and focus on career choices. The STEEP final conference provided the opportunity for the ESRs and ERs to hear from the top tier academics about the latest achievements in the related research fields and present their achievements to other researchers. Continuation in life-long skills training modules has complemented the scientific training program throughout this period.

Efficient knowledge exchange has consistently been a prerequisite for the accomplishment of all objectives and was fostered in a total of 4 network events in the second period with intensive programs of scientific seminars, soft-skill seminars, and hands-on training that were organised at or near partner locations (1 summer school, 1 workshops, 1 contribution days to general public and 1 conference). Secondments at industrial and educational institutions within the network provided opportunities for the fellows to acquire practical knowledge and experience within their field of research. This greatly helped to maximise the impact of the STEEP activities and scientific exchange within the network. The resulting expertise of all fellows on topics covering pulsed laser, abrasive waterjet and focused ion beam was reflected in the high quality of their experimental and theoretical work.

In conclusion, high scientific progress was achieved during the second period. The scientific and practical outputs greatly exceeded the expectations. These outcomes were the product of strong collaborative ties, rapid knowledge exchange, effective training efforts within the network and pragmatic project management.