Despite the many advantages of Additive Manufacturing (AM), poor surface finish has always been a major barrier to adoption, particularly in demanding end-use applications. Sandwell has been part of a project to tackle this issue and achieve top quality surface finishing on Additive Manufactured parts.
It has long been a fact that advanced engineering industries (like aerospace) have been unable to fully embrace AM technology due to the stringent surface quality and integrity requirements for critical or highly stressed parts. In addition, traditional finishing methods are often unable to deal with the intricate and complex shapes that AM makes possible, at least within a sensible commercial time frame.
In order to tackle this issue, Sandwell has been part of an Innovate UK funded project alongside the likes of TTL, MTC and Meggitt, to develop FlexiFinish.
FlexiFinish is a comprehensive methodology that will deliver a flexible, automated and precise finishing solution for complex surfaces, both internal and external. Advanced CAM and process modelling tools will be utilised to identify and plan the most effective combination of finishing methods for each surface, allowing the deployment of targeted and controlled solutions for each segment. The entire process will be carefully monitored using in-process optical inspection techniques.
The FlexiFinish process will bring together multiple finishing and post processing technologies, including laser polishing, adaptive finishing and shot peening, offering maximum flexibility and dramatically reducing lead times, due to there being one a single set-up process.
The FlexiFinish post-processing database (a go-to finishing information catalogue) would give the ability to process a wide range of materials, geometries and initial surface roughnesses, making it a desirable alternative for many manufacturing businesses that wish to obtain and implement complex finishing strategies.
FlexiFinish is due to be launched in June 2018.