Traditionally, multi-material blended components are mixed in planetary mixers, cast to blocks/blanks, and undergo subtractive machining to form shaped components. Composites such as syntactic and highly filled resin-based systems are blended in rotary drums and other conventional blade-based mixers over long periods of time, decanted, moulded to blocks and again undergo subtractive machining. These are both time-consuming, wasteful and potentially hazardous when working with energetically-sensitive materials.
Resonant Acoustic Mixing (RAM) is a novel powder/powder, powder/fluid and fluid/fluid mixing technology that has the potential to directly mix materials into the final net (or near-net) component shape without further processing, removing or significantly reducing material waste, time and hazards. RAM is being trialled with a defence contractor and is showing excellent results to date. However, modelling of this mixing technique is in its infancy and has not been addressed and thus, cannot be said to be optimised. Numerous mixing (intensity, time, pressure-temperature), material (particle size, shape, pre-blending, order of addition) and tooling (shape, composition, mixing head space) parameters impact the efficiency of RAM and thus if modelled would add significant value in optimising the mixing process.
Modelling and/or trials would improve understanding of the capability, both limitations and opportunities. A phase space of mixing sweet spots could be identified, further de-risking potential processing operations by avoiding knife-edge scenarios. Once mixed, the blend of powders still needs to be decanted into a mould tool. This presents a more controlled flowing environment but can lead to phase separation layering and other forms of de mixing especially when considering particles of different sizes or densities.
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