MAIN OUTPUT First manufacturing machine using Micro-FAST technology has been developed. The machine can be used to manufacture miniature to micro-sized components with a range of powder materials, including metals, ceramics, MMCs, WC, cermets, etc. that are difficult-to-form and difficult-to-cut materials. IMPACT/USERS With an increased demand on the miniaturization of products and devices, there is a great market potential for micro-parts and micro-structured components for various applications such as MEMS (Micro-Electric-Mechanical Systems), micromechanical devices and biotechnology products. One of the key challenges is still, however, manufacture of multi-materials products, especially the products/parts used in extreme conditions. The Micro-FAST is a technology developed to address such a challenges. Its theory and process had been validated in the lab. However, a production machine was not available. The Micro-FAST machine developed in this project is the first of this kind of machine which is able to simultaneously, directly form functional miniature to micro-sized components from loose powders without using binders. The machine design is expected to generate significant impact in micro-manufacturing industry, and manufacturing machinery industry in general. Current and potential users include manufacturers of miniature/micro-products/parts, who intend to shorten production cycles, reduce running cost, and produce products with multi-materials. The machine can also be used for general purpose thermo-mechanical tests of materials, Electrical plasticity forming of bulk components from metals, projection welding of thin-sheet-metal parts, etc. DESCRIPTION OF THE RESULT The Micro-FAST machine was designed for the forming of miniature/micro-sized components with a maximum force of 50KN, enabled by precisely guided hydraulic cylinders. The machine has two working stations – forming/sintering and die/component cooling. These are conducted within a main vacuum chamber (10-3 mbar). A die-set containing the powder and forming tools is transported from pre-vacuum chamber to the main vacuum chamber, and then to the third vacuum chamber for further cooling. This is effected by a dedicatedly developed in-situ transport system. Die-set entering the machine and leaving the machine as well as vacuum doors’ opening and closures are fully controlled automatically. The heating of the dies/materials is realised by a power transformer, which can heat up the core section of the powder up to 1600°C within seconds. Force, displacement, forming temperature, level of the vacuum and cooling controls are fully automated through equipped various sensors, controllers, and advanced system software specially developed for this machine. Depending on the geometric features and type of the material to be formed, the machine is able to form parts from several millimetres to 50 millimetres in overall sizes. For micro-sized components and certain types of materials, producing 200 parts per hour is achievable.
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