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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R001715/1
Title: LightForm: Embedding Materials Engineering in Manufacturing with Light Alloys
Principal Investigator: Prangnell, Professor P
Other Investigators:
Jiang, Dr J J Li, Dr N Zhou, Professor X
Shercliff, Dr H R Quinta da Fonseca, Dr J Robson, Professor J
Haigh, Dr SJ Curioni, Dr M Lin, Professor J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Airbus Group Limited BAE Systems Beijing Inst of Aeronautical Materials
Bentley Motors Ltd Bombardier Constellium UK Ltd
Crown Packaging Plc Defence Science & Tech Lab DSTL Doncasters Group Ltd
ESI Hermith GmbH Impression Technologies Ltd
Innoval Technology Ltd IOM3 Jaguar Land Rover
Luxfer Gas Cylinders Ltd Magnesium Elektron Ltd (UK) Norsk Hydro ASA
Northern Automotive Alliance Novelis Otto Fuchs KG
PAB Coventry Ltd Primetals Technologies Ltd (UK) Rolls-Royce Plc
Sapa Technology Stadco Automotive Ltd Timet UK Ltd
WMG Catapult
Department: Materials
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Programme Grants
Starts: 17 August 2017 Ends: 16 August 2022 Value (£): 4,827,337
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Continuum Mechanics Materials Characterisation
Materials Processing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Transport Systems and Vehicles
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
16 May 2017 Programme Grant Interviews - 17 May 2017 (Engineering) Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Forming components from light alloys (aluminium, titanium and magnesium) is extremely important to sustainable transport because they can save over 40% weight, compared to steel, and are far cheaper and more recyclable than composites. This has led to rapid market growth, where light alloys are set to dominate the automotive sector. Remaining globally competitive in light metals technologies is also critical to the UK's, aerospace and defence industries, which are major exporters. For example, Jaguar Land Rover already produces fully aluminium car bodies and titanium is extensively used in aerospace products by Airbus and Rolls Royce. 85% of the market in light alloys is in wrought products, formed by pressing, or forging, to make components.

Traditional manufacturing creates a conflict between increasing a material's properties, (to increase performance), and manufacturability; i.e. the stronger a material is, the more difficult and costly it is to form into a part. This is because the development of new materials by suppliers occurs largely independently of manufacturers, and ever more alloy compositions are developed to achieve higher performance, which creates problems with scrap separation preventing closed loop recycling. Thus, often manufacturability restricts performance. For example, in car bodies only medium strength aluminium grades are currently used because it is no good having a very strong alloy that can't be made into the required shape. In cases when high strength levels are needed, such as in aerospace, specialised forming processes are used which add huge cost.

To solve this conundrum, LightForm will develop the science and modelling capability needed for a new holistic approach, whereby performance AND manufacturability can both be increased, through developing a step change in our ability to intelligently and precisely engineer the properties of a material during the forming of advanced components. This will be achieved by understanding how the manufacturing process itself can be used to manipulate the material structure at the microscopic scale, so we can start with a soft, formable, material and simultaneously improve and tailor its properties while we shape it into the final product. For example, alloys are already designed to 'bake harden' after being formed when the paint on a car is cured in an oven. However, we want to push this idea much further, both in terms of performance and property prediction. For example, we already have evidence we can double the strength of aluminium alloys currently used in car bodies by new synergistic hybrid deformation and heat treatment processing methods.

To do this, we need to better understand how materials act as dynamic systems and design them to feed back to different forming conditions. We also aim to exploit exciting developments in powerful new techniques that will allow us to see how materials behave in industrial processes in real time, using facilities like the Diamond x-ray synchrotron, and modern modelling methods. By capturing these effects in physical models, and integrating them into engineering codes, we will be able to embed microstructure engineering in new flexible forming technologies, that don't use fixed tooling, and enable accurate prediction of properties at the design stage - thus accelerating time to market and the customisation of products.

Our approach also offers the possibility to tailor a wide range of properties with one alloy - allowing us to make products that can be more easily closed-loop recycled. We will also use embedded microstructure engineering to extend the formability of high-performance aerospace materials to increase precision and decrease energy requirements in forming, reducing the current high cost to industry.

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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk