STEEP is an EU-funded Marie Curie Initial Training Network that aims develop the next generation of researchers in the field of energy beam processing (including abrasive waterjets, pulsed laser ablations and focussed ion beams). Each of these technologies has a different specific niche in industrial manufacturing, from using waterjets to machine extremely tough aerospace components, to using lasers to create patterns on diamond abrasive tools.
Although these advanced machining methods operate on very different length scales and use different operating principles, they can be brought together under a common conceptual and mathematical framework. This framework has been developed by Professor Dragos Axinte from the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering in collaboration with Professor John Billingham from the School of Mathematical Sciences.
This collaboration also involves experimental and theoretical work with colleagues in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. Through the work being undertaken in STEEP, and other ongoing projects, we are developing a software tool that will allow us to specify the shape that we wish to machine and calculate an optimal beam path to obtain that shape. This will supersede trial and error process development, and allow a wider range of freeform surfaces to be machined. This is only possible through the use of mathematical modelling to understand the essential elements of energy beam processing.