An interview with David Polito, Deputy Head of Projects at VFE.
Innovation is key to adapting in times of disruption. As the global pandemic continues to challenge the wider supply chain, some manufacturers are turning to technology as a means of reducing operational costs, increasing output and thriving even in adverse conditions.
Aerospace is one of the industries that has been impacted the heaviest by COVID-19. To help one of our customers diversify their products, we took part in a research and development (R&D) study to innovate a more efficient production method of making heat exchangers. The result of the study is a method of creating near-perfect joints for a wide range of materials and products using a VFE-patented device to facilitate diffusion bonding.
Earlier this month, we caught up with David Polito, Deputy Head of Projects at VFE, to find out all about the process and how VFE’s customers can benefit. Read on to find out more.
‘The perfect join’: how it works
“A part produced using a diffusion bond is structurally superior because it has no seam”, David explains. “ Similar and dissimilar materials join together as near a perfect join as is possible with aid of high pressure and temperature. This makes it an incredibly strong joint with applications extending far beyond aerospace.”
How does VFE’s patented tooling work, and what steps did VFE take to develop it?
“As part of the study, three methods for achieving diffusion bonding were examined”, David explains. “Of the three, isostatic gas pressure diffusion process was the most cost effective.”
Instead of relying on mechanical aid to achieve the desired directional force, a can system which is sealed for vacuum can be externally pressurised to collapse in a vertical motion.
As David goes on to explain, “the pressure generated inside the furnace chamber begins to crush the can via a displacement. This transfers an axial load from the collapsing can through to the heat exchanger unit, while nodes located at the top and bottom sealing flanges control a uniformed load across the top and bottom sections of the heat exchanger.”
To make this a cost-effective process, the can is completely reusable. It can also be used for different-sized units. The only consumable items are the metal seals and an evacuation port.
To find out more about our patented, two-stage preparation process and how your operations could benefit, get in touch.
The benefits of a diffusion bond
Our gas diffusion process unlocks a range of operational benefits, but the most immediate benefit is through reduced capital investment compared to other diffusion bonding methods.
Related read: 3 Ways to Reduce Heat Treatment Costs in 2021
As we have already touched on, the strength of the diffusion bond means the components will last a lot longer, reducing the risk of damage and minimising maintenance costs.
Operationally, the fixture is incredibly versatile. “It can be put into any furnace where there is gas pressure inside, so manufacturers with existing equipment can still use this process to produce superior parts with unparalleled joints”, David explains. “It’s a quality advantage. They could go on to sell these parts to their customers at a higher price because they will last longer, improving the profitability and the success of the company’s pricing strategies.”
The method also unlocks energy-saving benefits by enabling manufacturers to produce quality parts with superior joints using lighter-weight or dissimilar materials.
“Manufacturers can put all sorts of materials in the cans. They’re not limited to one can for one product or to one type of furnace. Each tool can be easily adapted to different pressures, different components and different materials, giving operators the versatility to quickly adapt production to meet changing rates or other external factors.”
Solve your challenges with VFE’s innovative solutions
Our patented diffusion bonding tool is just one example of VFE's capabilities in engineering excellence. We are widely recognised as the go-to technical experts for all areas of heat treatment and composite manufacturing equipment, and we also maintain strategic relationships with a range of specialist supply partners around the world.
For our customers, this translates into advanced R&D capabilities that they can draw from in order to develop innovative joining techniques at the forefront of the industry.
“In the race to ramp up production, improve cost efficiencies and stay competitive, technology innovations are key. But which solutions should manufacturers invest in and what benefits do they offer?” Read more in our article, 4 Technology Innovations to Optimise the Manufacturing Process
Across the heat treatment process, there are multiple points at which efficiencies can be made by upgrading or introducing new technology that supports production and the longevity of our customers’ operations.
“We’re improving production from all angles”, David explains. “It all comes back to leveraging our technical expertise and strategic partnerships to help our customers improve efficiencies and keep their operations running.”
To find out how our patented diffusion bonding could benefit your operations, or to enquire about a bespoke R&D project with VFE, click the button below and get in touch today.