The city of Sheffield, UK, has traditionally been at the forefront of metallurgy – being a major source of iron and steel during the industrial revolution, and an important producer of steel parts and tools, in particular high-end cutlery. This tradition continued more recently with the opening of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in 2001. Since then, the center has been at the forefront of a range of metallurgical research; in particular, additive manufacturing (AM), with a large range of 3D printing machines and software. Recently, the city’s past and future met when a Sheffield knife maker made use of 3D printing technology to produce a bespoke chef’s knife with titanium alloy powder.

Knife maker Stuart Mitchell participated in a project with the Design and Prototyping Group (DPG) at the AMRC to produce a titanium chef’s knife to demonstrate the technology and allow Stuart to compare and contrast the end product with his own handcrafted knives. The project was funded by a grant-funding scheme run by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult specifically to help small to medium enterprises fund research projects that introduce them to new manufacturing technologies.

Tailor made project

Luke Hill, project engineer at the center and part of the DPG, worked with Stuart and engineers Abdul Haque and Valdis Krumins to design and manufacture the knife.

‘Stuart Mitchell has been making very high-end craft knives for a long time,’ he told Metal Powder Report. ‘He got in contact with a project leader at the AMRC with the aim of developing a knife that could be tailor fitted to the grip and the hands of the person using the knife. Stuart runs a local SME and the AMRC does a lot of work with local SMEs, introducing them to new technologies.

‘He started looking into metal 3D printing to make the knife – and this is where the AMRC came in. Initially, we considered just 3D printing the handle, but then we were able to put together a design for the whole knife.

‘The benefits of 3D printing in this project were immediately clear: the specific customisation that you can get from AM and being able to print the exact geometry required by the user,’ Luke explained. ‘However, one big challenge we spotted quite quickly was that the edge retention was going to be extremely important. Obviously if the knife was going to be fit for purpose, it had to be able to retain a sharp edge, with a good level of hardness to ensure that it doesn’t blunt quickly.’

This article appeared in the May–June 2019 issue of Metal Powder Report. Log in to your free profile to access the article.

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