Case Study: Jean-Christophe Gebelin (Doncasters Group Ltd)
Doncasters decided to support the IMPaCT CDT because the proposed research area is in line with Doncasters portfolio of manufacturing processes and there was a gap on the work market for skilled technical leaders in the area of high temperature material manufacturing and processing. Moreover it was seen as an opportunity to take up young talents and train them in the areas which are our core businesses and provide the opportunity to create an input stream of technically qualified leaders/managers with a research training that will provide them with a good toolset for the challenge they will face in the future in our manufacturing plants.
The technical opportunities for improvement or step changes are numerous within Doncasters, examples will mainly, but not only, be around casting technologies, as they represent more than 50% of our activities. For the project with IMPaCT student Stefano Cademartori (pictured left) based at the University of Birmingham, the opportunity was centred on ceramic core manufacturing for the investment casting industry. Cores that are used in manufacturing of parts for the power generation sectors are becoming more and more complex in terms of geometry and contain more and more small features making their manufacturing more challenging. The objective of Stefano’s PhD project is to model the core manufacturing processes and build up understanding of the different failure mechanisms that are present in the current processes.
So far, the project has allowed us to better understand the characteristics of the ceramic pastes being used in our different plants to manufacture cores. This understanding is now being built up in process models which will enable us to improve tooling design and optimise process parameters for the core injection process. In parallel, analysis of manufacturing data is being carried out in order to understand, for existing products, the type of defects being generated and their influence on production rate. This will allow us to better use the characterisation techniques and modelling tools we have to improve plant performance.
The long term impacts to Doncasters are expected to be firstly and more immediately better core manufacturing processes that will improve overall business performance and reduce New Product Development and Introduction lead time. Secondly, by improving the technical culture within the company, where process leaders understand the processes they are running and they have the ability to bring into the business well trained technical leaders able to question current practices and improve them.