Profiled parts in metals, ceramics, polymers and composite materials are used in the building of a wide range of machinery and in aircraft, vehicles, consumer products, etc. Abrasive waterjets are the only power beam technology that can accurately profile all of these materials, but profiling costs for some metals can be high in comparison with those of plasma arc and lasers. If abrasive waterjet profiling speeds were improved, in relation to those of plasma arc and lasers, they could become the cheapest method of meeting industrial needs for just in time production of small batches of profiled parts in a wide variety of materials.
The objective for the project is to use direct injection of abrasive technology to produce finebeam abrasive jets that improve profiling performance by over 300 percent, compared to existing abrasive waterjets. At the same time, cut widths will be reduced by up to 400 percent, which will enable fine beam abrasive waterjets to compete with CO2 lasers for fine detail profiling.
Prototype equipment will be developed to produce fine beam abrasive waterjets down to 0.2 mm in diameter, along with the conerol systems to integrate the fine beam equipment with CNC profiling systems. Low cutting head weights and jet reaction forces will allow X Y and Z manipulation systems to be assembled from widely available modular linear motion components. Within the project, techniques will be developed to use fine beam abrasive waterjets in profiling, cutting, drilling and slotting of metals, ceramics, polymers and composite materials. New production processes will be developed that exploit the precision of fine beam jets and their potential to drill small diameter holes ( < 0.5 mm) and produce narrow slots (< 0.2 mm) in materials up to 10 mm thick.
The Consortium comprises: two manufacturers of abrasive waterjet equipment; a manufacturer of high powered, integrated electrical actuators that will be used to drive ultra high pressure pumps; an aerospace end user company; a contract abrasive waterjet profiling company; a consultancy and sub contractor to the toolmaking industry who will demonstrate the advantages of the technology in comparison with wire EDM; a University department that is internationally recognised for its R&D on abrasive waterjets.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
110 Ballinode - Sligo
BT3 9DZ Belfast