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Ultrasonically-assisted machining to cut composites

News International-French

7 Jul 2014

Loughborough University researchers have developed a device which could change the way cutting, drilling and milling is done in manufacturing.

The process involves a technique called ultrasonically-assisted machining (UAM), which uses a specially designed piezoelectric transducer working in tandem with a traditional turning, drilling or milling machine.

The device creates ultrasonic vibrations at anything between 20kHz and 39kHz, and the machining technique makes the composite material so ‘soft’ in the area being worked on that much less force is needed from the cutting tool, resulting in less damage, less waste, and a better finish.

UAM is the brainchild of Professor Vladimir Babitsky, from the Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, and has been developed extensively in the last few years with the support of Dr Anish Roy and Professor Vadim Silberschmidt.

Several PhD projects have been successful over the last decade, including the recent work by Vaibhav Phadnis and Farrukh Makhdum, who have been instrumental in tackling the challenging task of drilling in carbon/epoxy composites.

Vaibhav worked on composites and believes that when the device has been perfected for other materials, like Ni-alloys, it will be a major boost for manufacturers.

The technique is currently being extended into biomedical applications such as drilling holes in bones for orthopaedic surgery.

Also, preliminary studies in drilling tiny holes in printed circuit boards show excellent potential for component assembly that require high precision.

Vaibhav, who has been working with Airbus, says the ease of set-up, usage and cost-friendliness of the technology makes it a perfect candidate for future manufacturing processes.

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