Refurbishment and enhancement of mining equipment

Industry Partner: D&T Hydraulics Pty Ltd

D&T Hydraulics’ core business involves the refurbishment of hydraulic shafts, cylinders and associated components, primarily for the mining and manufacturing industries. In 2018 the business invested in the installation of a high-speed laser cladding facility. This technology is state-of-the-art, and offers a range of new capabilities that in turn have the potential to both deliver existing refurbishment services at a higher rate and quality, as well as extending in-house capabilities further and enabling applications in new markets to be tapped.

By partnering with Swinburne university under a SEAM project, D&T benefits from additional resources to assist with accelerating the development and refinement of laser cladding capabilities at D&T. Samples prepared via laser cladding have been provided to Swinburne for microstructural analysis, with results used to optimise processing conditions. In turn, Swinburne benefits from the opportunity to be at the forefront of research around this cutting-edge advanced surface engineering process, and supporting the training of new surface engineering researchers. To date, under this collaboration a broad range of cladding materials have been tested and studied using high-speed laser cladding, with the capability demonstrated to be clad alloys from different metal alloy classes. Specific alloys have been identified for targeted commercial applications, and further work is now underway to validate the performance of the cladding through accelerated environmental and wear testing. Further research continues in parallel, working to optimise process control in order to ensure consistent and reliable cladding, as well as studies underway to investigate interactions between different cladding and substrate materials to ensure reliability under different environmental conditions.


Thin films for infection control

Industry Partner: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation CSIRO

With an increase in demand for orthopaedic surgeries, a growing number of implant related infections has become great concern of all modern orthopaedic surgical procedures. Bacterial adhesion to various biomaterials and the formation of biofilm on implant surfaces are key steps in the development of most infectious condition, which starts from bacteria adhere to implant surface, followed by proliferation and the multi-layer accumulation of extracellular matrix, which often leads to severely implant failure and repeated surgery procedures for chronic wounds.

Nevertheless, surface engineering has been helping biomedical science with better understanding and control of implant related infections. For example, surface modification of implant surface enables to interfere with bacterial adhesion as well as delay the initial stage of infection happening within implant–tissue interfaces. As biological systems are inherently complicated and hierarchically structured, we believe a better preventative approach can be achieved particularly by combining multiple antimicrobial strategies in the same device or coating. Here, we are aiming to develop new antimicrobial coatings with multifunctionalities providing a broad range of antimicrobial spectrum and multiple layers of defence. Thermal spray methods will be mainly used to deposit new antimicrobial coatings in the form of mixture or multiple layers of coatings with bioactive species including polymers, metals, and nanoparticles, molecules that could interfere with microbial signalling. The coatings will be characterized using XPS, IR, AFM, SEM, Raman, XRD, contact angles, profilometer, and their antimicrobial properties and biocompatibilities will be tested using a range of medically relevant microbes and different cell lines.


Layer-by-Layer Deposition of Nanometer Thin Films on Arbitrary 3D Structures

Industry Partner: GrapheneX Pty Ltd

Conformal coatings over a complex 3D structure are needed to achieve additional functionalities and prevent corrosion. However, the complete covering the complex 3D surface is extremely challenging for conventional coating techniques, especially when the parts are intricate and of small dimensions with intricate gaps or channels involved. The incomplete covering on 3D structures with conventional coating techniques will introduce defects, thus compromise the functionalities and, in particular, the anti‐corrosion performance. Therefore, it is required to develop a new conformal coating technique with the capability of the complete coating of 3D structures. In this project, the Team will develop a scalable and low‐cost layer‐by‐layer conformal coating technique based on a patent pending wetchemical coating method SUT researchers have developed. The research will focus on the attachment of the coating to different substrates. The strength and longevity of the coating will also be investigated according to the industry requirements. The anti‐corrosion performance under a number of harsh conditions will be understood versus the coating parameters, including the compactness, coating thickness and structure complexity to meet the industry standards. SEAM Project Team will be trained in advanced nanotechnology coating techniques. They will master the coating process and the coating properties to be suitable for the industry demands.


Coating and Repair of Additive Manufactured Components

Industry Partner: LaserBond Limited

Laser Cladding can be used for Laser Metal Deposition (LMD) as an Additive Manufacturing (AM) method to repair or add structures to structural components. These components can find uses in mining, agriculture, aerospace and automotive industries. Anywhere, in which complex structures, normally made via substrative processes, need to survive tough environments. Through LaserBond, partnering with Unisa, this project will address the need to understand the possibilities and limitations of added and/or repaired LMD structures. It will develop quality control techniques for these structures, so as to give end-users confidence in the expected performance.

In addition, the role of advanced feedback systems in controlling the critical parameters in LMD structure manufacture will be investigated. This will enable LaserBond to offer an advanced AM process and capitalise on the inherent advantages of AM, that is low wastage (cf – subtractive processes) leading to a more economical and ecological production process. Finally, coating protocols will be investigated, this can include graded coatings, duplex systems and the investigation of the effect of the deposition pattern on the AM part. This will cumulate in prototype fabrication and testing.


High Precision Coating with a Graphene Layer

Industry Partner: Innofocus Photonics Technology Pty Ltd

Optics industries rely on thin film coating technologies to manipulate light reflection, transmission, and absorption within specified wavelength ranges. However, the coatings are fabricated at a high cost using complicated vacuum coating machine, greatly limiting their effectiveness and accessibility. These processes are also of low efficiency and require an experienced workforce. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a low-cost, simple and large‐scale coating method that is able to precisely control the coating properties and thicknesses with nanometer accuracy.

The SEAM project team aims at achieving two important milestones through this project: The first one is to demonstrate nanometer precision coating on a flat substrate to achieve simple functionalities. The second one is to use a laser to pattern the film to achieve more complicated functionalities. The Team will first focus on the development of the multilayer deposition technique of graphene materials to target the nanometer film thickness and large‐scale uniformity requirements placed by the optical coating industry. Then through employing and developing advance nanofabrication technology by ultrafast lasers, nanopatterning of the thin film can be achieved, enabling sophisticated tenability of light in the nanometer scale. Advanced device architectures can be developed in collaboration with industry partners, thriving the photonics industry in Australia. The SEAM team will be trained in the area of precision optical coating and optical design. In particular, advanced computer modelling skills will be developed in combination with nanotechnology fabrication.


Optiminization of Surface Properties of additive components using an additive/subtractive machine

Industry Partner: Romar Engineering Pty Ltd

Metal additive manufacturing has many advantages including the ability to reproduce from CAD designs and develop intricate structures as well as significant energy and material savings compared to traditional manufacture. However there are however some areas where improvements can be made: additive manufacturing is relatively slow, it can induce residual stresses in parts , surface finish may be rough requiring post processing and it needs high quality and expensive powders. This project will assess whether the use of a hybrid machine in which both additive and subtractive manufacturing is possible can reduce these issues.

The project will use a the DMG Mori Lasertec 3D 5axis have several interesting functionalities including faster deposition rates (10 times faster than other additive machines) plus the ability to undertake laser deposition welding and milling in the one machine. The project will assess if the use of subtractive manufacturing (ie milling) interspersed with additive can reduce residual stress and also control the surface finish.  The effect of powder shape and chemistry will also be investigated to determine if lower cost powders can be used. In addition to training post-doctoral fellow and PhD students the project aims to produce higher quality parts that require either less or no post processing in a faster and more economical way. The technology will be used in aerospace, defence and biomedical applications.


Additive metal manufacturing for aerospace applications – high speed laser deposition of thin metal coatings

Industry Partner: Ruag Australia Pty Ltd

Laser metal deposition (LMD) is a surfacing technology used for obtaining high quality wear and corrosion resistant coatings on a range of substrates.  The technology is now well established as an industrial process and complements other coating technologies such as thermal spraying.  The current research efforts in LMD in the context of surface repair focus on processing and microstructural optimisation, novel coating alloy design and knowledge transfer from traditional fabrication technologies. However, the process operates at a relatively low laser scanning speed (typically ~2 m/min) which makes it less attractive in relation to large surface area repair.

A new process which has been reported in the literature and which is attracting increasing attention from industrial perspective is Ultra High Speed LMD (UHSLMD).  The UHSLMD process has a capability to deposit metal alloys at speeds of 100 m/min or 500 cm2/min.  As an emerging rapid repair technology, the potential of UHSLMD to efficiently produce competitive clad layers with various materials on large surface areas has not been investigated in depth.  This project has identified a need for the development of thin film coatings (< 100 micron thick) for wear and corrosion protection based on UHSLMD technology for a range of aerospace components. The technology to be investigated and developed will examine the process parameters for depositing high quality coatings and characterise their microstructure and wear and corrosion performance.  The project has the potential to deliver new laser coating technology for repair of large surface areas of aerospace components more economically and environmentally friendly.


Addressing ash-related challenges from biomass combustion using ceramic and composite coatings

Industry Partner: SCG Chemicals Co. Limited

Although the use of biomass as an energy source has been growing, some challenges related to biomass combustion are inevitable and they can negatively affect the efficiency and performance of the boiler. The degradation of the boiler is a result from high temperature corrosion from corrosive compounds released from biomass combustion and erosive wear due to impingement of solid particles.

The new desired coatings to address the challenges must be capable of reducing slagging deposition and corrosion attack from biomass combustion, contain both tough and hard phases to resist erosion as well as be compatible to the existing substrate in a practical working environment.

According to previous studies, metal-based Ni-Cr coating has shown excellent corrosion and erosion resistance in a practical boiler environment. In addition, it is evident that adding appropriate content of ceramic phase to the coatings as a reinforcing hard material can enhance erosion resistance of the coatings. The research team aims to implement these finding to create a new generation of composite coatings that positively modify surface properties such as resistance to corrosion, wear and oxidation to prolong the life span of the boiler component and improve its performance.


Edge preparation, surface finish, and their effects on modern precision cutting tool performance

Industry Partner: Sutton Tools Pty Ltd

Edge preparation and surface finish are vital considerations in the manufacture of modern precision cutting tools, as they may significantly impact tool efficacy and life. Existing methods of preparing tool surfaces are principally based on honing operations through abrasive mechanisms such as drag finishing, micro-blasting, and diamond polishing. While cost-effective, these methods are limited in their application to many tool materials due to the high hardness of tool materials, and/or limited dimensional control. Although other methods of tool preparation, based on thermal or (electro)chemical processes have been developed, there is limited understanding of these edge preparation techniques and the relationships between process parameters and the resulting cutting tool geometries.

In this project, a comparative evaluation of various existing edge-preparation processes will be performed, and the key characteristics associated with satisfactory edge preparation will be identified. Next, a novel electro-polishing edge-honing process will be developed, and the impact of the various associated process parameters on the resultant edge preparation will be investigated; this will be used to develop protocols to achieve the optimum surface quality of the cutting edge. In addition, various wear resistant thin films will be deposited onto cutting tools with different geometries and sizes using physical vapour deposition technique. The coated thin films and the cutting tools will be evaluated in terms of their chemistry, microstructure, crystal structure, micro hardness, wear properties and tool life.

Creating the Titomic Kinetic Fusion® Smart Factory

Industry Partners: Titomic Limited and Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)

Titomic (ASX:TTT) is an Australian public company specialising industrial scale metal additive manufacturing using its patented Titomic Kinetic Fusion® (TKF) technology. The TKF technology provides unique capabilities for producing commercially viable additively manufactured metal products, competing directly with traditional manufacturing methods. Titomic provides OEM production and R&D services from its TKF Smart Production Bureaus to the global Aerospace, Defence, Shipbuilding, Oil & Gas, Mining and Automotive industries. Titomic also provides an extensive range of metal powders for 3D Printing, especially titanium and super alloys, and provides sales and support services for their TKF production systems.

SEAM and Titomic have outlined several specific areas of need for research going forward. These goals including further optimisation of the Kinetic Fusion process, the exploration and development of operations with mixed-materials, and the development of advanced predictive models to validate part manufacture and ensure ongoing part reliability. The use of advanced sensors and process control feedback enables auxiliary data sources to be used and compared to the results obtained from traditional destructive and non-destructive sample analysis techniques. Foundational process development will be supported by analysis of prepared samples at Swinburne to verify cladding quality, with active involvement ramping up in early 2020 with a PhD student joining the project in Q1. Planning is presently underway into the design of advanced process monitoring systems that are expected to form key inputs into both research studies, as well as providing data that will be used to develop models for predictive process quality control monitoring.


Developing technologies for thermal spraying composite substrates

Industry Partners: Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) Limited, MacTaggart Scott Australia (MTSA) United Surface Technologies (UST) Pty Ltd

Thermal spray coatings have shown the ability to improve the properties of a variety of structures/components in relation to their wear, corrosion, conductivity and/or thermal protection performance. These coatings have traditionally been applied to standard metallic substrates. For many applications, however, industry has been increasingly looking at the use of different substrate materials/designs to manufacture their products and also to develop coatings that can allow structures/components to be used in harsh environments. For example, there is an increasing demand for the reduction of the weight of components and structures, while maintaining required performance/operational characteristics. This project will investigate the development of the thermal spray coating processes that are used to functionalise composite material structures. To achieve this the research team, comprising of industry and research experts, will look at the coating process from a holistic perspective in terms of the coating materials, coating application parameters and the substrate properties. Test components as specified by industry partners will be developed as prototypes, which will then be trialled in the field to determine the performance in relevant operational environments.


Maintenance and repair of ageing infrastructure in remote Australian locations

Industry Partner: Santos Limited

Like many companies in the oil and gas sector, SANTOS have an extensive gas and oil pipeline network made from steel. Some of these pipelines suffer accelerated corrosion inside the pipes due to the activity of microbes, and this is referred to as microbially induced corrosion (MIC). This project aims to look at several aspects of MIC in gas pipelines. Firstly, anti-microbial coatings on the inside of large diameter pipes will be studied, with a view to improving the pipelines that may be built in the future. External pipeline repair using laser cladding will also be examined, as this has many advantages over existing repair technology such as longevity and resistance to the harsh Australian environment, in particular, the expose to ultra-violet radiation from sunlight. Lastly, a dedicated surface study will be carried out to investigate how the implementation of new chemicals such as foaming agents and newly developed anti-microbial additives effect the corrosion behaviour inside the pipeline.


Functional coating materials for industrial applications

Industry Partner: GrapheneX Pty Ltd

Multifunctional coatings with the advancement of nanotechnology and nanomaterials have emerged as a fascinating field with the potential to have significant impacts on industry and society. Superhydrophobic, easy-to-clean coatings for sensors; self-cleaning, hydrophobic/hydrophilic coatings for aerospace and automotive industries, anti-fingerprint and anti-glare coatings for touch-screen displays are few examples of smart coating applications. Owing to the stimuli-response behaviour of the smart materials towards various intrinsic or extrinsic events in the form of altered temperature, electric current, pressure, sound, pH etc., key challenges such as the enhanced coating lifetimes, effective performances under real-world conditions, conversion of laboratory smart coating concepts to practical coating systems need to be addressed. Poor mechanical strength, slow response and undesirable environmental instability of conventional smart materials leads to the introduction of advanced materials such as polymer nanocomposites, nanoparticles and nanostructured materials such as CNTs, graphene etc. that can enhance the properties of existing coatings and thereby fulfil the modern industry needs. This project will develop an innovative and cost‐effective pathway to create advanced coating materials and improved methodologies for the synthesis of functional coatings for industrial applications.



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