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Behaviour of additive manufactured aluminium alloy structural components

School of Sciences, Faculty of Science and Engineering

, Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Additive manufacturing or more commonly known as 3D printing is a manufacturing process that creates three dimensional objects from a CAD model and allows designers to achieve versatile complex and optimised designs whilst minimising waste and labour costs. The range of 3D printed applications is rapidly expanding in sectors like healthcare, automotive or aviation but has been progressing at a slower pace in the built environment arguably due to engineering challenges associated with the manufacture of the basic material. In the area of metal 3D printing, it is now possible to print models made of 3D printed aluminium, however, their applicability as structural components is yet to be explored. The purpose of this project is therefore to investigate the applicability of 3D printed aluminium structural components. Detailed attention will be placed on the physical structure of the 3D printed aluminium components, material response as well as the structural behaviour of medium/large sized components typically used in construction. The project will also explore the feasibility of replacing complex aluminium assemblies for unified 3D printed single components.


With 3D printing technology gaining popularity amongst researchers, the applicability of 3D printed components in civil engineering has remained unexplored. This is because of two main challenges: (i) the quality of the material must be the same if not better than the material manufactured traditionally and (ii) civil engineering products are larger. This project will look into the physical structure of both the traditionally manufactured and the 3D printed material, and will examine in detail the material behaviour. Ultimately, the project will also look in a holistic way into system level applications of 3D printed aluminium components.

Scientific/Technical Problem:

The process of 3D printing can affect the material properties of the resulting product. Therefore, the mechanical properties of the 3D printed components must be characterised because without a diagnosis at the material level, it is not possible to investigate applications of neither 3D printed medium/large size components nor systems. This project will overcome these barriers.

Proposed testing/methodologies:

The proposed methodology is as follows:
- Material characterisation: material coupons (i.e dog bone shape) will be 3D printed and will be tested to obtain stress-strain curves. Four different coupon geometries. resulting in four stress triaxialities and three layer orientations will be considered to examine basic mechanical properties and quantify material anisotropy. Material characterisation of the 3D printed material will be carried out at room and high temperature.
- Structural behaviour of medium/large scale components: medium scale components will be 3D printed and numerically modelled while large scale components will be numerically modelled with aid of the material properties obtained during the first research phase.
- Systems level components: Complex geometries made of various sub-assemblies traditionally found in civil engineering applications will be identified and redesigned as a unique component that will be 3D printed, tested and numerically modelled.

Anticipated outcomes/outputs:

- Structural performance data of interest for other researchers.
- A minimum of three 3*/4* journal publications
- Development of design recommendations that could be incorporated in structural design codes.

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