Assessing New Technologies to Improve Manufacturing Methods
This case study formed part of the undergraduate course undertaken by our Quality Inspector, Yongzheng (Pier) Yu at Lancaster University.
About the Organisation
Specialising in investment casting with manufacturing facilities in Manchester, Dean Group International Ltd provide quality-assured supply of investment castings, die castings, commercial grade investment castings, forged parts and metal injection mouldings. This includes additional processes of machining, heat treatment, assembly and various surface finishes. As well as having fast track rapid prototyping facilities, Dean Group International Ltd also provide 3D CAD design and product development support, using in-house software and bespoke casting simulation packages.
Customer requirements have increased in recent years, as the demand for more complex geometries, tighter tolerances, cheaper parts and shorter lead times increase. Dean Group International Ltd approached the Engineering Department at Lancaster University to explore how additive manufacturing (AM), sometimes referred to as 3D printing, could have a positive impact on its business and its customers. The company wanted an objective assessment on ways in which improvements could be made to their existing methods by harnessing the benefits of AM.
A team of four 4th year undergraduate students carried out the project, first by conducting a thorough investigation into a range of AM processes with specific application to current methods used by Dean Group International Ltd. This incorporated a bespoke and detailed comparison of specific machines, evaluating parameters such as capital costs, material costs, part size, layer thickness, tolerance, thermal properties and mould removal methods. This was supported by direct feedback from the company on commercial aspects such as prioritisation of requirements and integration into current business practises.
The use of AM in hard, soft and hybrid tooling was also assessed by the group to achieve the results required by the company. Practical research was undertaken with the production of parts using AM machines at Lancaster University’s Engineering Department to assess a range of parameters. Based on this secondary and primary research entirely specific to the needs of the company, conclusions and recommendations were made as to the role AM has in the future manufacturing methods used by Dean Group International Ltd.
Cost and Impact
The project was completed in two weeks and costs were met by the Engineering Department for consumables and travel.
Yongzheng (Pier) Yu, Quality Inspector for Dean Group International Ltd, commented “It has been tremendously worthwhile for our company to collaborate with Lancaster University’s Engineering Department to bring us a high-quality piece of technical work which will be built upon by the company and taken forward to realise some of the recommendations made by the student team.”
Dr Allan Rennie, Senior Lecturer and project supervisor said “The student team provided a conscientious and professional approach to this industry-generated project, whilst being thorough in their technical appraisals and research. The amount of work achieved is pleasing and is reflective of the high-calibre students across all of our schemes of study.”
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