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Biological Transformation in Manufacturing: Direct integration of biological components for machining Ti6Al4V

The Stellenbosch Technology Centre (STC-LAM), in the Department of Industrial Engineering, is part of an international Fraunhofer Institute project on Biological Transformation in Manufacturing. One of the aims of the project is to develop and test (safe) microbial-based metal cutting fluids for greener machining processes. Conventionally, mineral-oil-based metal working fluids are used in metal cutting operations. However, in order to drive the subtractive manufacturing industry to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly, a paradigm shift is proposed towards the incorporation of biological cutting fluids in machine tools.

The machining tests performed were reportedly a first for the African continent.

The cutting operations were performed on a block of Grade 5 Titanium alloy with a DMG Mori 3-Axis milling machine at the STC. The microbial-based additives were cultivated at the Stellenbosch University (SU) Department of Microbiology by Professor Leon Dicks and his team. The preliminary cutting results are showing promise when compared to the conventional oil-based cutting fluid.

The international collaborative Biologicalisation project begun in 2017, with the SU activities initially driven by the late Professor Dimitri Dimitrov, and currently by Professor Oliver Damm. The first phase was successfully completed in early 2018. The findings of phase 1 of the project are summarised in a paper published in the CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology titled: Biologicalisation: Biological transformation in manufacturing; by Gerald Byrne, Dimitri Dimitrov, Laszlo Monostori, Roberto Teti, Fred van Houten, and Rafi Wertheim.

Photo left: The experimental setup with the biological cutting fluid and the machined titanium block.

Photo right: Some of the Industrial Engineering team members in front of the machine setup in their safety gear are from the left: Martin Bezuidenhout (PhD student), Thembeka Nxiba (STC Machine Technician) and Dr Emad Uheida (postdoctoral fellow).