Towards lightweight corrosion-resistant impeller for vertical chemical pump through novel composites additive manufacturing

Academic Institution: University of Strathclyde

Academic Supervisor: Dr Liu Yang

Industry Partner: The Weir Group PLC

PhD Student: TBC

Start Date: January - March 2020


The Weir Group PLC offer the world’s most comprehensive range of vertical chemical pumps and slurry processing technology for mining industry. Throughout their history, Weir have relied on the use of metallic components to the point that major investments into minerals and mining are now the largest part of their business. These large metallic equipment are extremely heavy and very laborious to fabricate. Moreover, many applications for these products require to process highly corrosive fluids (e.g. hot concentrated sulphuric acids), which require proprietary specialised metal alloys to mitigate corrosive damage. Nonmetallic composites (e.g. carbon/glass fibre reinforced polymers are well known for their chemical resistance, lightweight, and durability. Despite the fact that these materials have already been used in manufacturing pipes and tanks, long-term resistance against hot concentrated chemicals remains extremely challenging for most polymers.

In this proposal, we aim to develop a disruptive technology to challenge the conventional way of producing metallic impellers and investigate novel additive manufacturing routes to producing lightweight corrosion-resistant impellers for Weir vertical chemical pumps. A number of key technical barriers have been identified including 3D printable fluoropolymer, impact of fibre incorporation on additive manufacturability, and end performance of 3D printed nonmetallic composites. Consequently, four work packages have been proposed to address these challenges. These include investigating solutions to creating 3D-printable fluoropolymers, study of the effect of fibre addition on parts manufacturing and quality, and evaluation of chemical and mechanical properties of 3D printed high-performance fluoropolymer composites.

The outcome of this project is expected to fill a new knowledge gap that has the great potential to underpin an innovative technology in corrosive fluids processing for mining industry and beyond.