Researchers Create New Device for Machining Composites

Loughborough University researchers have created a device which could revolutionise the way machining composites is done in manufacturing.

The new device 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 in tackling the challenge of drilling in carbon/epoxy composites. The technique is currently being extended into biomedical applications such as drilling holes in bones for orthopaedic surgery. 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.

Dr Anish Roy said;

Ultrasonically assisted machining could well be the answer to economically efficient and sustainable manufacturing methods in the immediate to near future. The technique has been successful in the laboratory where multi-fold improvements in cutting intractable aerospace alloys have been demonstrated. It makes machining so easy it is like cutting through butter.

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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