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Domin champions fluid power sustainability with Renishaw metal AM

UK-based fluid power systems manufacturer Domin has deployed metal 3D printing technology from global engineering firm Renishaw to produce a range of high-performance servo valves that could help to slash carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the fluid power industry. 

Often used to control powerful hydraulic cylinders, a servo valve is an electrically-operated valve that controls hydraulic fluid by turning signals into pressure. Produced using Renishaw’s RenAM 500Q additive manufacturing system, each of Domin’s 3D printed servo valves can save up to one tonne of CO2 compared to their conventionally manufactured counterparts. 

“There is a pressing reason disruption is needed – sustainability,” said Marcus Pont, CEO of Domin. “In the US, the fluid power sector alone wastes about 300 million tonnes of CO2 per year through system inefficiencies. To put this into context, this is about the same as the total output for all CO2 emissions in the UK.

“More efficient technology could make a real difference to global emissions.”

Domin's 3D printed ultra compact direct drive servo valves. Photo via Renishaw.
Domin’s 3D printed ultra compact direct drive servo valves. Photo via Renishaw.

Domin’s adoption of metal 3D printing

Fluid power systems utilize liquids or gases under pressure to generate and transmit energy, and are commonly used in markets spanning Formula 1, automotive, space, aerospace, mobile hydraulics, and industrial plants. 

According to Domin, while multiple technologies have been introduced to the industry in recent decades there is yet to be one that causes “significant enough” change in the fluid power market in terms of improving sustainability. 

However, the company sees 3D printing as the “missing piece of the puzzle” to change this, and in 2019 embarked upon its partnership with Renishaw to redevelop a number of its products. 

Domin used the RenAM 500Q system to begin redesigning its direct drive servo valves, making them 25 percent more powerful than the original while being a quarter of the size. The redesigned valves were produced for a third of the cost and the manufacturing time was also significantly reduced. 

Domin has also recently applied additive manufacturing to another project with leading luxury sports car manufacturer Aston Martin and Cranfield University, which aims to develop a “world-leading” suspension system involving 3D printing. The design of the suspension system will be based on Domin’s patented valve technology, involving a 3D printed core that contains 25 fluid galleries working in unison to transport hydraulic fluid throughout the system.

Renishaw's AM technology has enabled Domin to redesign and improve its servo valves. Photo via Renishaw.
Renishaw’s AM technology has enabled Domin to redesign and improve its servo valves. Photo via Renishaw.

Reducing emissions in the fluid power sector

Now that Domin has developed its range of 3D printed state-of-the-art servo valves, the company hopes to showcase how engineering startups can drive value for the UK’s industry.

“Britain is home to some of the world’s leading engineering businesses,” said Pont. “However, most of the UK’s big engineering businesses were started in the 20th Century. It’s time for British business to become more ambitious. Combining metal additive manufacturing with other technologies revolutionizes what can be achieved technically – it could generate real value for British industry.”

RenAM 500Q is a quad laser metal additive manufacturing machine launched by Renishaw in 2017. The machine has a high maximum deposition rate of 150 cm³ per hour to improve productivity and lower cost per part, and also features automated powder and waste handling systems to ensure consistent process quality.

Through using the RenAM 500Q to re-engineer and manufacture the servo valves, Domin was able to increase productivity and reduce cost per part, while realizing greater design freedom. Designed for the most demanding servo applications, the 3D printed valves are marketed by Domin as small, light, and affordable high-performance products that offer good power density and dynamic performance. 

With each 3D printed valve able to save up to a tonne of CO2 emissions compared to conventionally manufactured valves, Pont sees the range as just “the first step” in creating change within the UK’s fluid power systems sector. Going forwards, the company will look to start manufacturing and selling complete systems, while working on a number of high-profile projects.

“Additive manufacturing is proving to be a key enabler in many markets,” said Bryan Austin, Director of Sales, Additive Manufacturing Group at Renishaw. The productivity that Renishaw’s technology enables means metal 3D printing is broadening into markets where it was previously economical.

“Domin has showcased how AM can be used to make products better, faster, and cheaper than traditional manufacturing would allow.”

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Featured image shows Renishaw’s AM technology has enabled Domin to redesign and improve its servo valves. Photo via Renishaw.

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