The two year Innovate UK project will focus on embedded sensors and electronic components within manufacturing sectors such as aerospace.
The two year Innovate UK project will focus on embedded sensors and electronic components within manufacturing sectors such as aerospace.

A project has been set up in the UK to develop world leading printed sensing technology for metal tooling applications.

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is part of a UK based collaboration that aims to develop the sensing technologies for the real time monitoring of machined metal parts. The partners involved are CPI, BAE Systems, Element Six, The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Advanced Manufacturing Ltd, Printed Electronics Limited, The National Physical Laboratory and DMG Mori Seiki.

The two year Innovate UK project, entitled ‘Intelligent Tooling’, will focus on embedded sensors and electronic components within machining applications in manufacturing sectors such as aerospace, rail, automotive, marine and energy.

The sensing of critical process variables, such as temperature, force, acoustic emission and vibration, applied close to the cutting surface has the potential to create a step change in the capacity and productivity of machining systems. A reduction in cycle times, human intervention and process variation are all achievable through the introduction of embedded sensing, according to the project organizers.

Small variation in input parameters, such as material and tooling properties, are often only observed in the final inspection of products. Within the high value manufacturing sector, this often leads to conservative parameters or conservative tool lives being enforced. The ability to obtain data on the machining process at the time of cutting, at a lower cost and higher resolution than before could allow these small changes to be diagnosed and managed within the process, leading to better tool utilisation and potential improved processing times.

Embedded sensing

The Intelligent Tooling project plans to develop a prototype tooling insert with embedded sensing capability, designed to withstand and exceed the harsh environmental conditions that are present in metal machining. Further developmental focus will be to upscale the prototype to derive the data needed for commercial market adoption. The embedded sensing technologies developed within the project offer the prospect of ‘right first time’ manufacture on difficult to machine components and alloys.

‘Developments like this one are aiming to take machining on to the next level by getting to the heart of the cutting process and then being able to adapt the cutting parameters accordingly,’ said Mark Wilson, principal technologist, advanced manufacturing at BAE Systems. 

This story uses material from The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.