The research objective of this Small Grant for Exploratory Research (SGER)/Grant Opportunity for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI)/collaborative research project is to validate the feasibility of a novel hybrid manufacturing process which has the potential to generate complex three-dimensional thinsection parts using a three-axis CNC machine. The new hybrid process, which integrates machining and single point incremental forming into a single CNC machine tool setup, is called Deformation Machining. Combining these processes will enable new part geometries to be created that are not currently possible, and allow some complex parts now requiring a 5-axis machine tool to be fabricated using a 3-axis machine.
This new process can enable the flexible and rapid fabrication of lightweight structural components. Potential applications of this process span industries from aerospace to automotive and beyond. Aerospace applications include parts such as bulkheads, frames, spars, stringers, and wingribs. In the aerospace industry alone recurring savings will be substantial. The savings come from three areas: reduced equipment costs, reduced component weight, and increased part accuracy. These savings have been estimated based purely on replication of existing part geometry. However, even greater benefit is expected to arise because designers will gain the ability to conceive new structures which only become feasible using the advantages of deformation machining.