The Art and Engineering of Advanced Manufacturing Materials
With leading expertise across diverse manufacturing processes including elastomers, silicone, precision moulding, medical device manufacturing and additive manufacturing, Romar Engineering understands materials implicitly.
Materials expertise is perhaps one of the lesser known aspects of manufacturing – but it is critical for exceptional and innovative manufacturing solutions.
“Material selection is core to product development,” says Steve Milanoski, Head of Advanced Manufacturing at Romar. “It is usually one of the first questions we ask. Material influences how something is made, what it can do – and it ascertains final quality.”
Between art and engineering
With every Romar project, preliminary materials selection occurs at the initial stage – and it requires full information in terms of project aims, requirements and constraints.
“At this stage we’re working somewhere between art and engineering,” explains Steve.
“There’s an element of creativity. We need to look at what properties we need – if it needs to withstand heat or have a high degree of malleability for instance – and there are numerous design criteria that we need to whittle down early on.”
Romar engineers and materials specialists often revisit and refine material selection during the early stages of a project – and the final decision on best material to suit requirements, production run size and budget, will also determine the manufacturing process.
Materials selection and manufacturing
Materials selection is implicitly tied to the manufacturing process – and with diverse manufacturing arms, Romar has robust capability to work with manifold materials.
“If we need a rubber part, we have our elastomeric arm,” elaborates Steve. “If you want it manufactured from plastic, we have strands dedicated to that. If you require a part made from metal, we have both additive manufacturing, and CNC capability to manufacture parts to 5-micron accuracy.”
As Steve explains, quantity is also central to the equation. “It’s why we see injection moulding still in play. Additive technology is obviously a highly advanced option, however you can make a million parts a day with injection moulding, where you would need a large number of 3D printers to do that.”
The frontier of materials
Diverse manufacturing processes allow Romar to work with an expansive materials list – from elastomers, silicone and soft metals like aluminium and bronze, through to hard engineering metals like Inconel and Hastelloy, frequently used in mining and oil and gas.
Many materials have potential across multiple industries… and some industries have a need for very specific materials.
“As one example we’re currently developing hardfacing and heat/corrosion resistant alloys for aerospace,” says Steve.
Material potential has expanded in line with technological advancement. “The frontier of materials is additive manufacturing,” Steve says. “There have been limitations with certain materials because we couldn’t control their compositions perfectly, leading to issues downstream such as solidification or cracks. With additives, we have absolute control to surpass problems like fatigue and fractures.”
The eco advantage
There’s another advantage to additive manufacturing that is often overlooked – and that’s its eco credentials. At Romar, we specialise in a hybrid manufacturing process consisting of DED Additive plus CNC machining on a 5-axis simultaneous manufacturing platform, and as Steve explains, there are multiple benefits.
“Generally parts have a certain life span. When parts are repaired they never return to their original state and so that repair lifespan is shorter than the initial one. Using our unique hybrid process, we can create materials for machine repair that potentially last four times as a long as a traditional repair cycle – and very close to the original cycle.”
Less material usage also means a greener process. “In aerospace we talk about a ‘buy to fly ratio’ which concerns the amount of material you need to acquire to produce a part, versus the amount of usage you receive. At Romar, we can selectively add material, meaning minimal waste and reduced energy consumption.”
Leading expertise for smart manufacturing
Steve came to Romar from SpaceX, where, as part of the additive manufacturing team, he designed rocket engine valves and components. As an engineering student he specialised in materials – and our outstanding materials expertise was a drawcard when he decided to join Romar.
“Carlo (Cartini) is among the best in his understanding of polymer science, and Neil (Wilson) and the team would collectively have 150 years of moulding experience,” he says. It’s this expertise that ensures our manufacturing solutions always meet performance criteria… exceptionally.
“If you need specific properties like fatigue resistance, a specific hardness or something less prone to fracture, we can do that,” continues Steve. “We can control percentages and make compositions on the fly. If you need something for a rocket, we can get creative.”
With decades of manufacturing experience, niche technology and outstanding materials expertise, Romar is a leader in smart and strategic manufacturing solutions. Contact us to see how our unique capability can help your project.