Designers of sheet metal components are increasingly looking for flexible and materially efficient manufacturing techniques, especially in the automotive industry. The flexible metal spinning process developed by our research group, which requires no dies and achieves near net-shape parts, promises to deliver an alternative to currently employed stamping and drawing techniques. This project looks at extending the capabilities of the flexible spinning process, which usually can only make axisymmetric components, to cover a wider range of parts, including square and elliptical cross-sections.
When humans first started to produce metal products, they were created from blocks of metal which were then forged by hand. The blacksmith carrying out this process was able to use his eyes and ears to monitor the behaviour of the part, and alter the actions he performed in order to achieve the target product. However, as metal forming technology has evolved and automated, both into huge presses capable of enormous forces, and more recently into flexible metal forming processes such as incremental sheet forming and flexible antisymmetric spinning, the eye and ears of the blacksmith have been lost.
However, since the age of quality assurance, manufacturers have used sensors to measure all product properties of interest to their customers, as a huge array of sensor technologies have been developed. If these sensors were added to flexible forming processes to measure the product properties in real time, and then the planned actuator settings updated in real time, then product properties could be vastly improved, even with a very approximate understanding of the underlying mechanics of the process.
We are developing this approach with colleagues at the University of Oxford as well as in the department.