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Enhancing the accuracy of geometrical and surface properties of free-form functional surfaces of prototypes and products

Primary objective: develop a decision support system to
enhance the capabilities of rapid prototyping and tooling
and injection moulding in terms of accuracy of geometrical
surface and material properties.

The functional performances of a project are governed to a high extent by its geometrical properties, i.e. its dimensions, form, waviness, roughness and micro-roughness. The demand for products with higher macro- and micro- geometrical accuracy comes from the most important industrial sectors, including the automotive, electrical, electronic, biomedical, consumer goods and packaging industry. In order to control the functional ability of the final product, a complete verification of the above characteristics is today required both at prototyping and production level. The primary objective of the project is to develop a decision support system (DSS) to enhance the capabilities of rapid prototyping and tooling (RP and RT) and net-shape manufacturing technologies, such as injection moulding, in terms of accuracy of geometrical, surface and material properties of components with free-form functional surfaces. The project goal is to create a novel environment where tools supporting decisions in designing and developing net-shape products are integrated into pilot plant facilities for RP and RT, die making and injection moulding. The DSS is based on innovative tools such as: (i) advanced strategies and equipment for geometrical inspection, material surface characterisation and functional testing, including tools based on Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) technologies for three dimensional measurement and analysis in micro and sub-micro with a link to macro geometry. (ii) reverse-engineering techniques for reconstructing product and die surfaces in the CAD environment and controlling the functional ability of the component during the manufacturing process, and (iii) process control techniques based on statistical design of experiments aimed at determining significance, robustness and optimal settings of process parameters. (iv) CAD/CAE/CAM tools for product modelling, process simulation and planning and die manufacture. The project consists of two main lines of research that share approaches and techniques of the investigation but pertain, respectively, to material incress RP, Rapid Tooling techniques and injection moulding technology: Line A: Design, manufacture and test of functional prototypes through material-incress RP techniques with improved accuracy of geometrical and surface properties. This line involves the development and validation of a set of tools and procedures aimed at investigating the effects of material and process parameters (such as scale and location of the part in the work volume, slicing thickness, power, etc.) and optimising the accuracy and precision of prototypes. Line B: Design, manufacture and test of components obtained through injection moulding with improved accuracy of geometrical and surface properties. The approach underlying this line of research is that of investigating relationships among functional surfaces of the injected components, their moulds and the EDM electrodes in terms of geometrical and surface properties. In order to achieve the objectives of this inter- disciplinary project, a balanced consortium of developers and end users has been set up, the partnership structure being based on the significance of the problem at the two end users and the complementary expertise of know-how suppliers and developers. The assessment of the techniques and procedures to be developed during the project as well as the applicability of the approach and the performances of the overall system will be carried out at the two partners playing the role of end users. In this regard, industrial test cases will be identified at the beginning of the project among precise components of electrical appliances and consumer goods (such as hydraulic and structural components of centrifugal and axial pumps and structural parts of synchronous permanent magnets) as well as products for medical applications to be used for non-invasive inspection. The project activities are split into four main phases as follows: Definition phase: Duration: 6 months (month 1-6) Activities to be undertaken: * design of the functional architecture of the DSS * definition of industrial test cases and multi- disciplinary assessment of industrial data * assessment of the requirements for the DSS individual components * definition of main parameters for 3D characterization. Development phase: Duration: 24 months (month 7-30) Activities to be undertaken: * acquisition and benchmarking of the DSS individual modules (software and hardware) which are commercially available * development of interfaces to integrate, at different levels, the DSS individual modules and components. * development of AFM tools for 3D characterization. Implementation phase: Duration: 23 months (month 14-26) Activities to be undertaken: * application and assessment of individual modules to the industrial test cases * application and assessment of modules at intermediate levels of integration * validation of the overall DSS system. Exploitation phase: Duration: 6 months (month 30 - 36) Activities to be undertaken: * assessment of the technological and economic benefits that can be achieved by the use of the DSS * definition and application of an exploitation strategy based on: - searching for potential licences, partners and end users - organisation of seminars and workshops - targeted dissemination of results.
Acronym: 
ACTUAL
Project ID: 
1 764
Start date: 
01-11-1997
Project Duration: 
36months
Project costs: 
6 030 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Market Area: 

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.