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[Portrait 14] Jonathan Hugues, research engineer specialized in metal additive manufacturing

IRT Saint Exupéry pursues a series of portraits devoted to the men and women who best represent the institute: its researchers. Their high-level skills and wealth of experience contribute hugely to IRT Saint Exupéry’s performance and unique position, which is so crucial for its members and partners.

Can you tell us about your career so far?

I’ve always been attracted by the matter. After my science baccalaureate, I joined a « Grandes Écoles » preparatory class with the aim of entering an engineering school. At this time, joining the ENSIACET [1] turned out to be my main objective. I found a great compromise with a city that attracted me, Toulouse, and a field of study that I was passionate about.

So I did my engineering degree there, in the materials department. Even if we are already more or less aware of the materials that surround us, it helped me to broaden my horizons: what materials are used ?, how are they processed ?, what are the associated issues ?

Being in this school has also allowed me to discover the aeronautical world. I had a « research » profile, which reinforced my idea to pursue my study adventure. I started my thesis in 2011, focusing on material for structural applications and long term ageing issues for aeronautics. It was a very specific research topic, but the participation of industrials such as AIRBUS and Aubert & Duval allowed me to get my first foot in the industry. It was very formative. At the end of my thesis, the first additive manufacturing subjects came to my attention, and then I started working on it: what is it ?, what are the opportunities ?, who are the first industrials interested ?, etc. At this time it was still obscure for me!

How did you join IRT Saint Exupéry ?

I was in post-doctoral studies at CIRIMAT [2] when I had the opportunity to participate in the setting up of a research platform on additive manufacturing with my thesis directors. It was a brand new experience for me, which was outside the research framework. At that time, and faced with the difficulties we were encountering in developing a platform of this size, we turned to the IRT Saint Exupéry to develop our idea. Additive manufacturing was already part of the IRT’s roadmap and that’s how I was hired, notably to set up future projects on this theme, which today are the ANDURRO and DEPOZ projects.

Can you tell us more about your role ?

I was lucky enough to cover a wide spectrum of activities in a short period of time. I was hired as a research engineer but one of my objectives was also to develop the additive manufacturing activities. I first worked on the METALTECHNICS project, then quickly joined the Business Development team as part of a joint project with Céline Larignon and Simon Perusin to set up the ANDURRO & DEPOZ projects. I continued my job as research engineer and work-packages leader, and was also temporary project manager.

 

I keep my « research engineer » DNA, while having a particular interest in the related aspects of management and development.

 

I also supervised Antoine Casadebaigt’s thesis on oxidation of titanium alloys (Ti64) manufactured by EBM [3] or LBM [4]. It is a historic partnership with the CIRIMAT, a nearby laboratory specialized in materials, with whom we are always delighted to collaborate.  Supervising a thesis is a relatively huge task, but the transfer and collaboration with a PhD student are very rewarding and allow to go in depth on specific topics.

What are the main purposes of the ANDURRO and DEPOZ projects ?

There is a strong link between these two projects, but even if they are relatively close, the technologies used and their maturity degrees are different.

 

On the ANDURRO project, we talk about powder bed fusion additive manufacturing, which has a high level of maturity, especially on LBM. This technology allows us to manufacture complex small parts, which add a lot of value in terms of design. On the DEPOZ project, we focus on powder deposition additive manufacturing: this is a younger technology that still has to prove itself. It makes possible to manufacture less complex parts but offers larger dimensions and production capacities, and opens up many perspectives in the field of function addition and repair.

 

The common denominator of these two projects is the materials behaviour study (Nickel, Titanium or Aluminium based alloys) inherited from the process parameters. This is an essential step that will enable the aerospace industry to consider these technologies for the manufacture of critical components. Within the framework of my activities, I therefore focus on the increase of materials maturity and metallurgy issues, especially the formation of very thin microstructures that can be complex in terms of size and morphology, and their evolution.

What are the first results of the ANDURRO project ?

We study the behaviour of the material under stress and long term ageing by simulating the real conditions of use of the part throughout its life. What happens to these additive manufactured microstructures after a few thousand hours of use at high temperatures?

 

We quickly increased our expertise and skills, and now we run most of these tests on our own equipment. The aim is to be able to carry out tests that are not common in industrial-type laboratories, to study phenomena that are essential to understand the matter behaviour. This enables us to provide to our members the key elements they need to make decisions about the future components they will use on aircraft or satellite for example.

Is additive manufacturing still a priority for industrials facing the Covid-19 crisis ?

Of course additive manufacturing has its role to play in this context. For example, the powder deposition technology can be an answer to the major current societal challenges: energy and consumption sobriety. Instead of throwing away 90% of the material, we can build with a lower consumption and energy. It is also a powerful tool for process optimization, and not only for aeronautics. Today, all Formula 1 engines run with additive manufacturing parts, especially injectors, which increases efficiency by almost 50%.

Is there something you'd like to share with us ?

My final word is something that I shared a lot with Antoine: a negative result is not a bad result (even less in the actual context *laughs*). The researcher loves the unusual result, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. You have to analyse this result, use your critical mind to get the most out of it, to get everything you can say out of it. Sometimes it’s not much for us, but it will be for others. It works in life as in many things, we can learn from a negative result.


Publications & Releases

[1] École Nationale Supérieure des Ingénieurs en Arts Chimiques Et Technologiques

[2] Centre interuniversitaire de recherche et d’ingénierie des matériaux

[3] Electron Beam Melting

[4] Laser Beam Melting

[5] Institut de mécanique et d’ingénierie Bordeaux (Université De Bordeaux/Arts et Métiers ParisTech/ INRAE/CNRS/Bordeaux INP Aquitaine)

[6] Centre Inter-universitaire de Recherche et d’Ingénierie des Matériaux (Université Paul Sabatier/INPT/CNRS)

[7] Laboratoire génie de production (Ecole nationale d’ingénieurs de Tarbes – ENIT)