Theta Technologies, Exeter, UK, has announced a collaboration with aerospace and defence manufacturers BAE Systems, London; AMRC North West, part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre; and the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, a group of manufacturing research centres. The collaboration is expected to result in Theta’s RD1-TT testing a multitude of BAE Systems components, both additively manufactured and composite.
Earlier this year, Theta Technologies announced RD1-TT, its first commercially available non-destructive testing (NDT) product. The machine, which has been under development for several years, utilises Theta’s nonlinear resonance NDT technology and has been specifically designed to provide a cost-effective, rapid flaw detection solution for metal AM users.
Theta Technologies believes that the machine is now ready to start being used in metal Additive Manufacturing testing processes, particularly for parts produced for critical applications in industries such as defence, aerospace, automotive and nuclear energy.
The potential that the technology offers to additive manufacturers has reportedly piqued the interest of several major players in those key industries, including BAE Systems. The collaboration between these two organisations has been developing since the manufacturers became aware of the technological developments on nonlinear resonance testing several years ago.
BAE Systems was seeking a new non-destructive testing solution that would allow them to simplify the overall testing process whist reducing the possibilities of working with flawed components over longer periods of time. When the company learned of Theta’s technique, it was said to have seen potential in this providing a quick-hit solution to identifying defects earlier in the manufacturing process. BAE Systems is said to believe that nonlinear resonance is going to be key to developing quick, whole item testing that can be used to support, and confirm the in-process assessment of parts, with composites proving a key focus.
“As we evolve our manufacturing processes we recognise new opportunities and advances in inspection capability. New and novel methods of verifying the product has been made correctly, right first time and aiming for no fault forward are something we are always looking to explore and exploit,” stated Kevin Pickup, Lead Technologist – Product Verification, BAE Systems Air Sector. “We are impressed by Theta Technologies innovative NDT methods and excited to work together to assess the RD1-TT, to understand how it can be effectively embedded within our production lines, and across our product range.”
Steve Butler, CEO of Theta, added, “To have a major international aerospace and defence manufacturer express such an interest in our technology is a tremendous boost for us. This collaboration will help us to gather further evidence of our technologies’ capabilities and allow us to validate what we know it can do. It’s also extremely important for us to use this project to understand the challenges that manufacturers face with regards to their manufacturing and testing processes so that we can continue to develop existing and future products to maximise the benefit to our customers.”
The potential impact of Theta’s technology, in particular for the development of metal Additive Manufacturing, has also gained the attention of AMRC North West and the HVM Capapult. This applied research centre, which sits at the heart of the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone in Preston, Lancashire, is said to see significant potential in the technology in the future development and adoption of metal Additive Manufacturing.
“We are very excited to participate in this project to test the feasibility of this new NDT technique developed by Theta Technologies, and to assess the usability as an evaluation tool needed to address the quality control challenges encountered in AM,” stated Dr James Hughes, research director for AMRC North West. “As a part of the consortium, AMRC North West will work on the measurement system analysis and applicability of the technique on a wide range of products with different materials and geometries provided by BAE Systems.”
An RD1-TT unit is expected to soon be based within Additive Manufacturing Research Centre, where it will be testing a variety of BAE Systems manufactured components.