The RECLAIM project is being undertaken by a consortium of eight organisations that in addition to Delcam includes Renishaw, Electrox, TWI, Precision Engineering Technologies, Cummins Turbo Technologies, Airfoils Technology International and De Montfort University. The main aim of the project, which is receiving an investment of over £1/2 million from the government-funded Technology Strategy Board, is to develop an integrated production system incorporating all of the processes required for cost effective, rapid and reliable remanufacturing. Currently, most remanufacturing involves a series of operations on different pieces of equipment, which might even be in different companies. Furthermore, each process is labour intensive and dependent upon the skill of the operator. This makes the overall process inefficient, expensive and difficult to manage.
The new system, which is being developed during the project, combines laser cladding, machining and in-process scanning in a single machining cell. While the main focus will be on the repair of damaged parts, it is planned that the new equipment could also be used to manufacture new metal parts, to upgrade obsolete parts and to reconfigure standard parts for specialist, low-volume applications.
To achieve this goal, a number of important new developments will be required:-
- An innovative laser-cladding head, using the latest fibre laser technology, will be developed which will fit directly into the spindle of a conventional milling machine, thus simplifying the programming of the machine to perform the cladding process.
- The CAM software to be developed will be the first to enable seamless control of cladding, machining and inspection processes via a single interface.
- A new contact measurement system for remanufacturing applications will be developed to enable rapid inspection of parts. This scanning information will be used to locate the part accurately, assess the degree of damage, define the machining operation, and to inspect the part at the end of the process.
- An integrated system that combines laser cladding, machining and in-process scanning in a single machining cell.