Alloyed, Oxford, UK, reports that the Casting-Hybrid-Additive-Manufacturing-Parts-Production (CHAMPP) consortium, which the company is a part of, has been awarded a significant grant to research, develop and test an innovative new hybrid production process that aims to address a number of the key limitations of Additive Manufacturing for the automotive sector, specifically electric vehicles (EVs). CHAMPP comprises Alloyed, Brunel University London’s BCAST, Gestamp and its affiliate Autotech.
With the EV market projected to reach approximately 27 million units per year by 2030, the automotive industry is constantly working on solutions to meet the challenges associated with heavy batteries and developing lighter-weight components to achieve efficiency targets. AM has long offered automotive designers and manufacturers the potential to overcome these challenges but is currently still limited by the speed of the processes, maximum part size and a relatively high cost-per-part, which is, generally, twice the cost of casting production methods.
With this in mind, the CHAMPP programme has been initiated to investigate a hybrid approach to the production of parts by considering the benefits of both casting and AM explains Alloyed. Alloyed will contribute its expertise in developing novel and innovative new alloys using its Alloy by Design (ABD®) platform for both casting and AM as well as the capabilities of its Engine® platform for increasing AM performance, together with the expertise of BCAST and Gestamp in their respective fields of casting research and world-class global manufacturing of automotive parts.
The aim is to combine the low cost-per-part capabilities of casting with the design and production flexibility of AM. In this way, automotive manufacturers will be able to cast their standard components across multiple models, and subsequently, use metal AM to customise those standard parts for specific variants at the volumes required.
To date, research in this area has mostly focussed on steel materials. However, while steel remains a relatively low-cost material, the complex supply chains and/or expensive new machines have been a barrier to large-scale hybridisation reaching the mainstream. Moreover, research on hybridisation using aluminium (or alloys thereof) has been limited by traditional cast/wrought alloys which, when used with AM processes, result in poor mechanical performance. Similarly, current aluminium alloy AM powders are generally not suited for automotive production applications as they are expensive and result in poorer mechanical properties with many defects.
The CHAMPP programme seeks to build on the consortium’s prior alloy and hybridisation research to develop and test new aluminium alloys better suited to future automotive needs. The focus will be on developing alloys that can first be cast and then subsequently built on to produce custom/complex features using AM techniques with a compatible alloy that maintains mechanical properties and performance.
Shouxun Ji, Professor at BCAST, commented, “It is exciting to be working in such a high-class consortium of companies and institutions at the cutting edge of the next-generation of casting processes in combination with additive manufacturing as part of a truly advanced hybrid technique for producing metal components. The future is exciting, and BACST is delighted to be central to the CHAMPP initiative.”
Phil Potter, Innovation Project Manager at Gestamp, added, “We are proud to be working on the CHAMPP project alongside some prominent players in the metal production and AM space. Obviously for us the tie in with the potential for AM to be used alongside other solutions and innovations in the area of EVs is of pivotal concern, and we see the CHAMPP programme as vital to the furtherance of safer, lighter, more energy efficient, and more environmentally-friendly vehicles in the future.”
Sajjad Amirkhanlou, Programme Director at Alloyed, stated, “We are delighted to be a part of the CHAMPP programme and bring our considerable experience and expertise to the project. It is vital for AM — if it is to fulfil its true potential — that the speed, size, and cost limitations are addressed fully. Through the CHAMPP programme we will tackle these issues head-on by taking a multi-disciplinary approach and combining AM with an efficient and optimised casting process.”