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Engineering: Swansea University Excellence Research Scholarship: Using Additive Layer Manufacturing for Light Weighting of Polymer Automotive Components

Swansea University is proud to offer 15 fully-funded PhD scholarships for students commencing study in October 2018 or January 2019.

The scholarships will be awarded on the basis of student excellence across a portfolio of 34 potential projects.

Project details: From 2025, automotive manufacturers will have to develop vehicles that produce no more than 78g/km of CO2 emissions. The failure to satisfy the target will lead to a 75 Euro fine per vehicle sold. Therefore, there lies an industrial driven requirement to develop alternative lighter materials to reduce CO2emissions. 

The production of polymer components through the process of MuCell injection moulding offers the potential to deliver an ‘eco-innovation’ that can reduce the weight of polymer components by up to 20%. As polymers make up to 40% of a motor vehicle's total material usage, a weight reduction of 20% can deliver considerable reduction in CO2 emissions.

Within the process of MuCell injection moulding, nitrogen is mixed and dissolved to form a super critical fluid which is fed into the barrel of an injection moulding machine. By creating a large pressure drop between the machine barrel and the corresponding moulding tool, the nitrogen can nucleate, thereby creating a polymer that has a microcellular core. In addition to the reduction in component weight, less material is required and processing forces are drastically reduced, resulting in a low energy process to manufacture polymer components.

One of the major drawbacks of using MuCell injection moulding is the resulting surface finish. During the flow of polymer into the tool, the cells at the advancing melt front are stretched towards the mould surface, causing swirl marks. This swirl mark currently limits the use of MuCell to non A class visual components. 

Project Aims:

This project will investigate how the underpinning injection moulding tooling can be designed to eliminate the resulting swirl marks. In particular, if the injection moulding tooling can be heated above the glass transition temperature, swirl marks can be eliminated. Currently heating tooling is facilitated through large heater coils due to the thick cross-section of moulding tools which have to resist the large process forces exerted by injection moulding. As MuCell injection moulding self nucleates, no large forces are required through processing. This provides the potential to allow tooling to be produced through Additive Layer Manufacture (ALM). Having tooling produced through ALM will open the potential to transform the thermal management of MuCell injection moulding. The project will be broken down to three work packages:

WP1: The project will develop a topologically informed injection moulding tool produced through the process of ALM that will enhance thermal management and withstand process forces of MuCell injection moulding.

WP2: This project will investigate whether the ALM tooling can be coated with an electrical resistive coating to locally heat the tool surface above the glass transition of the polymer, thereby eliminating the use of heater coils.

WP3: Using the empirical data from the previous two work packages, a computational model will be developed to allow the simulation of the novel process technology.

Facilities:

The project will employ the use of the Engel injection moulding machine and Renishaw ALM machine that are based within the College of Engineering, Swansea University.

Deliverables:

The outputs of the proposed project would have major scientific impact within the academic and industrial polymer processing research communities. From the project, three high impact journal papers will be produced. It is expected that the deliverables of the project would provide excellent demonstrative capabilities to attract further research council funding and industrial collaborations.

Supervisors / Academic contacts: Dr Andrew Rees and Dr Christian Griffiths

The successful applicant will also have access to our Postgraduate Research Student Training programmes.

Eligibility

Candidates should have (or expect to obtain) a first class honours degree (or equivalent) and/or a master's degree with distinction in a relevant subject area (e.g. materials or mechanical engineering). 

Some knowledge of computational modelling is required. 

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK/EU candidates only.

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Benefits

The scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £14,553 for 3 years. 

There will also be £1,000 per annum available for research expenses such as travel, accommodation, field trips and conference attendance.

Application

Please visit our website for more information.

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