Building a pilot plant for the production of specialist nanostructured powders

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and nine other European partners are collaborating in the design, scale-up and build of a high energy ball-mill (HEBM) pilot plant for the production and validation of innovative nanostructured powders. These advanced powders will be able to be used in a number of high value manufacturing applications such as cutting tools, medical implants and a range of aerospace and automotive components.

The work is part of a four-year European research and development project titled ‘PilotManu’ which began in 2013 and is due for completion in September 2017.

The €5.3million project, which is partially funded by EU’s Framework Programme Seven (FP7), involves ten partner organisations across seven countries, bringing together various capabilities such as process engineering, materials investigation, product development and prototyping, characterisation, application testing and process economics.

PilotManu is manufacturing the nanostructured powders using a proprietary HEBM technology developed by lead partner MBN Nanomaterialia. The technology will allow for the manufacture of innovative advanced powders with ultrafine crystalline structures, meaning that products can be optimised to enhanced strength, reduce weight or provide excellent wear, corrosion or thermal resistance.

However, currently low productivity and high material costs remain a major barrier for the commercialisation of advanced powders that are manufactured by HEBM techniques. PilotManu is working to remove this barrier by scaling-up the manufacturing process and improving production efficiencies.

Dr Charanjeet Singh, innovation manager at CPI said: “We are delighted with the progress of the PilotManu project so far. The pilot plant will come online in the next few months and we anticipate the production of some truly innovative powders which will be validated for their suitability and performance in a number of value adding applications. The nano-scale features of these materials will allow for significant improvements in material performance such as physical-chemical-mechanical properties compared against bulk scale materials.”

Tom Austin-Morgan

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Very neat pilot plant application. Hopefully the pilot plant will get some good data that can make the process more effective, and less expensive. Is the next step a demonstration plant? Material costs are going to be the harder thing to overcome in the long-run, since you have little control over that.

I worked at a Pilot plant company, and they were faced with the challenge of building a working skid at production levels for often limited client budgets. Best of luck with the project; sounds like a really cool area to be exploring.

Comment Maria Lusardi, 09/05/2016

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