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Emerging Technology: Jet Machining

June 15th, 2012

An international team of engineers at The University of Nottingham are developing a new water jet milling control system. This system could change the building of complex aerospace, optical and biomedical structures and devices.

The milling technique will be able to work with great precision and without the aid of human hands and will be able to work on the surface of three-dimensional, geometric and multi-gradient surfaces.

Dragos Axinte, a professor of manufacturing engineering and his team at the university have received more than 3.8 million euro (the equivalent of 4.79104 million United States dollars) for the project. He believes in the power of what this system can do.

“If you want to generate surfaces in difficult-to-cut or heat-sensitive materials while exerting minimal specific forces, abrasive water jet milling will do the job,” Axinte said.

Abrasive water jet cutting is becoming one of the most promising non-conventional processing methods for difficult materials. These include: aerospace components, orthopedic implants, ultra-precision lenses, composites and super-hard substances including diamonds.

How it works

The milling technique uses a jet of water, 1mm or less in diameter, released under pressure at three times the speed of sound. Abrasive particles are added to the high velocity jet of water, allowing for the cut of the hardest, most complex shapes.

The technology uses a computer aided manufacturing (CAM) system to enable the named path of the jet plume. Its self-adaptive module receives real-time sensor information indicating the status of the jet footprint that contributes to the generation of the free form surface.  The self adapting system makes the necessary adjustments to bring the jet million processes to the required performance level.

Why it’s important

Professor Axinte says that current monitoring solutions in other machining processes are inefficient and failing.

“The Jet project will lead to the development and demonstration of the first self-learning control system for abrasive water jet milling capable of dealing with advanced applications to address the needs of niche and high value added manufacturing industries,” Axinte said. “At the end of the project we will have produced the software and a control system to completely automate the abrasive water jet milling and, hence, take it out of the craftsmanship remit.”

Contact The Talley Group for more information on mechanical engineering opportunities.

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