Plasma Additive Layer Manufacturing Smoothing

Impact: Economic, Environmental, Technological


While the additive manufacturing of metals is being rapidly deployed world-wide for its promises in terms of high performance, low material cost and wastage, shortened design-to-manufacture cycles and the ability to manufacture with limited access to supply chains, it still suffers from poor native surface states. PALMS (Plasma Additive Layer Manufacturing Smoothing) is a novel electrolytic plasma polishing approach developed by UoM researchers in collaboration with UK industrial partner Wallwork. PALMS is the first surface finishing process of its kind to not require environmentally harmful solutions in its operation. It drastically improves the quality of surface finish of 3D-printed metal parts, unlocking the potential of Additive Manufacturing on an industrial scale and affording novel opportunities in manufacturing from light-weighting to entirely bespoke production of metal components. PALMS surface finishing opens the door for additive manufacturing into demanding applications in sectors ranging from aerospace to medical, where fine surface finish is critical to ensure a component’s durability. Close collaboration through prototype development and validation programmes involving end-users in France, Italy and the UK has allowed Wallwork to develop a fully tested commercialised system. Over a dozen real-world use case studies were completed with prospective clients, many of which are leading to commercial contracts, creating a new market niche for the British manufacturer.

This success was highlighted in a story by the Henry Royce Institute and an article in Materials World, the magazine published by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining IoM3. Two direct spin-off projects were conducted after PALMS Proof of concept with Sandon Global Engraving Technology Ltd and Wallwork, respectively. The prototype machine constructed by Wallwork for the original PALMS project will be redeployed in their Bury site, as it is being replaced with a second iteration. The Bury PALMS machine will provide the company the capability of conducting optimisation efforts as well as potentially offering PALMS as a service, directly contributing to expanding their economic activity within the Greater Manchester area. Moreover, the machine will be made available for research purposes to the University of Manchester Plasma Electrolysis Research group, providing an invaluable access to the industrial scale.
Category of impactEconomic, Environmental, Technological
Impact levelBenefit

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Advanced materials
  • Henry Royce Institute