Supporting Additive Manufacturing: Plastometrex CTO Secures £1m Future Leaders Fellowship

Published on 7 November 2022

As CTO, Dr. Campbell’s primary responsibilities up until now have centred around the development of the company’s first commercial product – the Indentation Plastometer. This benchtop device measures the strength characteristics of metallic materials from a simple indentation test in under 5 minutes. The technology reduces the cost of mechanical testing by up to 90%, testing turnaround times by over 95%, and material wastage by up to 99%. Machines are currently in use across 5 continents, having been adopted by some of the world’s most prominent industrial companies, and highest-ranked universities, supporting a wide range of activities spanning advanced R&D, failure analyses, and small component testing.

Dr. Campbell’s Future Leaders Fellowship is focussed on supporting development within the metal additive manufacturing (AM) community, where the testing and qualification of 3D printed parts have been cited as two of the biggest barriers to the uptake and adoption of metal AM. The large costs associated with printing and (mechanically) testing coupons are also a major problem for the qualification of AM parts and processes. With Indentation Plastometry (also known as PIP), the method used within Plastometrex’s testing devices, the strength characteristics of metal AM components can be measured both quickly and non-destructively. Another important attribute of PIP testing is that it can be used to map spatially varying properties across components, with inhomogeneity being a common feature of metal printed parts. For these reasons, machines have already been sold to recognisable industry OEMs.

While machines have already entered the 3D printing industry, the main aim of Dr. Campbell’s fellowship is to extend the capability of the Indentation Plastometer and its associated software tools to include testing and full characterisation of anisotropic metals. Currently, PIP tests can be used to quickly detect the presence of anisotropy and also the relative strength and orientation of the anisotropy, but PIP testing cannot yet be used to extract the strength characteristics (stress-strain curves) in principal directions. The material must be either isotropic or transversely isotropic for the PIP testing technology to work reliably.

The award from UKRI will provide Dr. Campbell with the time and resources needed to build, manage, and lead a team capable of tackling this technically demanding project. The team will also be supported by industry-leading project partners, including the National Physical Laboratory, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, Element Materials Technology, and Oxford University.

Dr. Campbell and Plastometrex will be co-exhibiting at the AM industry conference, Formnext, from 15th to 18th November 2022 in Frankfurt, Germany, alongside the global testing service provider Element Materials Technology which also offers PIP Testing as a service. Their technology can be seen in action in hall 12 at stand A25.

Erwin De Rijcke, Sales Director at Element Materials Technology had this to say about the technology:

“We are excited to be collaborating with Plastometrex, both as an investor and a partner. We are now offering the Benchtop Plastometer as a service in various Element laboratories, including Element Hamburg. The solution is being used to support new service lines in failure analysis and whole component testing, providing our customers with data that they’ve not yet seen on their materials.“

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