Surface engineering plays a critical role in high-value manufacturing by improving product quality, performance, and life-cycle costs. Shot peening is an established surface engineering method used to impart compressive stresses into the surface layer of a part, thereby improving the durability and extending the service life. Unfortunately, shot peening is a line-of-slight process limiting its effectiveness for increasing complex engineering components, particularly those produced by additive manufacturing.
In the VibroPeen project, a novel vibratory peening technique will be developed which will simultaneously treat the entire surface of a component, including internal cavities. In addition to imparting controlled compressive stress, it will also help to “heal” surface defects. Moreover, through a further novel adaption of the process, a final vibratory polishing stage will be integrated to enable combined peening and polishing to be undertaken in a single part set up, thus significantly increasing the productivity of the process.
Sandwell and MTC have undertaken initial trials that confirm the findings of academic studies that the proposed approach has significant promise. The project aims to commercialize the process through a series of critical developments, including automating part manipulation within the process chamber to ensure effective control of the treatment, addition of sensors to monitor the process, and the development of a process model to enable effective planning of the approach for new component geometries.
The VibroPeen process will be cost-effective, flexible, and readily automated, enabling high throughput of parts, including those produced by additive manufacturing, leading to rapid, widespread commercialization within key high-performance engineering sectors (including motorsport, aerospace, space sectors) as well as the wider additive manufacturing user community within the next 5 years. This important development will provide a reliable, cost effective, automated finishing process, which can be applied to a wide range of components, many of which are currently untreated. Extending their service life will yield significant economic benefits to end-users as well as increasing safety and sustainability.
The project addresses the urgent requirement for UK companies to adopt higher productivity, sustainable, knowledge-intensive processes and, moreover, show global technical leadership in a post-Brexit world.