EnerAM – a group project between Atomising Systems Limited (ASL), Laser Additive Solutions (LAS), Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC), Hybird Technologies ltd and Brunel University London (BUL) – has been awarded a UK government Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (IETF) grant of just over £1 million.

Using atomisation to produce metal powders is an energy intensive process, explains ASL, involving energy for melting, refining nitrogen gas and in the raw materials that are melted and alloyed. Not all the powder produced in an atomising run is usable, with as little as 30% being used for Additive Manufacturing processes.

The purpose of the project is to analyse and improve the carbon reduction and energy efficiency potential of process optimisation using AI, and a recycling approach in the production of metal-based powder used in Direct Energy Deposition (DED) Additive Manufacturing as feed raw material. The partners aim to reduce the overall energy used in the production of DED suitable metal powder by 20%, and gain industrial confidence on the recycling of powders and heat affected parts back into the start of the process.

Metal powder produced by Atomising Systems Limited is being recycled in the DED process by Laser Additive Solutions, with powder and parts tested by the NAMRC to ensure no degradation of properties as recycling continues. Data collected by all partners is being used by Hybird and BUL to create an analytics model showing the energy consumption in each process and optimise its reduction based on input parameters.

Around 60% of the funding for EnerAM is via the IETF grant, with the remaining 40% coming from the project partners. The funding allows the involvement of smaller companies, which would not be able to fund such research themselves, and allows ASL to work with partners experienced in modelling and AI.

Dirk Aderhold, Technical Director, Atomising Systems, stated, “Metal powder production is an energy intensive process and more research and development are needed to reduce the overall carbon footprint of additive manufacturing processes. Working on optimising the entire production route from melting metal to producing a final part opens up opportunities to optimise the entire production value chain.”

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