Powder Metallurgy (PM) is an important forming technology
capable of economic production of net- and near net-shape
engineering components, with the additional environmental
benefits of reductions in raw material and energy consumption. Powder metallurgy is one of the most accurate of the near net shape manufacturing technologies, but its accuracy depends on the two key stages of production, die compaction and sintering. In particular the cost and delivery time of the compaction die is very often the most important element in competitiveness. It is recognised that computer based modelling of the die
compaction and sintering processes in particular can contribute significantly to improving efficiency, quality and cost of
current production and to generating new business opportunities for European PM producers.
There are currently a number of European research groups
working on both compaction and sintering models. However,
software tools are not yet being exploited industrially.
MODNET will concentrate on extensive collaborative programme aimed at tackling the major current barriers to industrial
exploitability of models by:
- ensuring the availability of valid material property input data by defining and standardising reliable measurement
- testing and validating the predictive capabilities of
existing models against industrially relevant processing
conditions and product requirements and against agreed
Additionally, MODNET focuses on training and transfer of
technology to industry, development of information
dissemination measures and ongoing review and assessment of the international state-of-the-art in the field.
In order to pursue these objectives, a balanced consortium of industrial organisations (PM processors and their material and equipment suppliers) and active research groups has been
Network management has been organised to ensure that the needs of industry are given high priority in planning the different tasks. Strong interactions with a number of ongoing national government or privately funded initiatives in the field are
MODNET will be coordinated by the European Powder Metallurgy Association (EPMA), the pan-European trade association for the PM industries. EPMA will subcontract the project management role to a recognised PM technology/industry expert, who will also lead the Die Compaction cluster. University of Nottingham will also contribute to the management resource by leading the Sintering cluster.
EUROPEAN DIMENSION AND PARTNERSHIP
The partnership is widely distributed within the EU, with
representation from ten Member States and one Associated State (Liechtenstein).
The coordination role provided by EPMA, the pan-European trade association covering the broad range of powder processing
industry sectors, ensures that information arising from MODNET are widely disseminated throughout the EU.
Significant initiatives funded by national government or
privately have been identified in a number of Member States
(e.g. SE, FR, DE, GB). Care has been taken to establish close links between the Network and these initiatives to maximise
synergy and complementarity.
MODNET research objectives are those which could not be
achieved by the individual groups and initiatives. Its added value is therefore very significant.
There is a significant trend for the PM industry's major
customer, the automotive industry, to globalise its production facilities. This is generating a trend towards globalisation of PM manufacturing capacity and worldwide sourcing of PM.
This trend will increase competition from imports within the European market and create new opportunities for export outside Europe.
The enhancement of the European PM industry's capability in
process modelling (particularly of die compaction and
sintering) is seen as a vital factor in defending markets
against imports from lower labour cost countries, particularly in the Far East.
Furthermore superior process technology will provide a vital competitive advantage in export markets.
It was decided to restrict the scope of the Network to cover Die Compaction and Sintering processes only. This decision was taken on the basis that these are the dominant process steps in all sectors of industry and that industrial demand for activity on these two processes was much more significant than for other processing technologies.
The potential benefits of appropriate Die Compaction models can be divided between those relating to current process problems (production efficiency and quality) and those relating to
potential generation of new application opportunities (higher performance applications, lower production run applications). The issues of concern in Sintering differ between net shape PM engineering components (fine control over dimensional changes, control over composition and carbon content) and other powder materials processing to full density products (the control of densification during sintering, the control of microstructural changes during sintering).
In the later stages it is planned to form additional Networks in other related powder technologies such as hardmetals and
magnets to take advantage of the developments made. The
enhancement of the capabilities identified above, which would arise from appropriate models of the die compaction and
sintering processes, is seen as a vital factor in increasing the competitiveness of the European PM industry.
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