Manufacturing of lightweight structural components for high performance electrical machines by electromagnetic pulse technology (EMPT)

The use of composite and hybrid structures is central to lightweighting. The combination of carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) and high-strength aluminium alloys, for example, offers a remarkable potential for weight reduction. However, manufacturing of hybrid structures requires reliable techniques to join dissimilar materials, which are difficult to achieve through conventional welding techniques (impractical for joining CFRP to metals), use of adhesives (limited bond strength) or in-mould casting (slow and unsuitable for industrial scale-up).

The aim of this project is to explore the potentials and demonstrate the feasibility of electromagnetic pulse technology (EMPT) as an advanced forming and joining technology in manufacturing of lightweight composite and hybrid structures for high-performance electrical machines. Electromagnetic pulse welding is a promising solid-state joining process offering fast and reliable bonding without degradation of the base materials due to thermal effects. In this process, a high-energy magnetic field is used to accelerate a flyer workpiece towards a substrate to create a bond as a result of high-velocity impact.

Schematics of EMPW (top), and micrograph of an Al/Al joint (bottom)

A specific objective of this project is to create a proof of concept for joining of metals such as high-strength aluminium alloys to carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) by EMPT. The project fits within the theme of manufacturing-led innovation in electrical machines (Grand Challenge 1) and specifically addresses challenges in manufacturing of lightweight and multi-functional structural components.

The project will be carried out in BCAST, Brunel University London, which hosts the Future Manufacturing LiME Research Hub. BCAST is strongly focused on lightweighting research and is the UK’s leading specialist centre in EMPT. BCAST is well equipped with a wide range of facilities and expertise to support industries and to collaborate with academic partners in the area of lightweighting materials research.

The team involved in this research are:

PI: Hamid Assadi

Co-Investigator: Issac Chang

Researcher: Zaidao Li