This feasibility study into the digitalisation of the aluminium anodisation process was undertaken by members of the EPSRC Digitalised Surface Manufacturing (DSM) Network+ group which aims to capture and understand the current UK coating research and manufacturing framework. The work was carried out by the Centre for intelligent Autonomous Manufacturing (iAMS) at Queen's University Belfast whose purpose is to research, develop and demonstrate innovative technologies that enable and underpin the rapidly evolving digital manufacturing world.

Aluminium Anodisation is a long-estabished industrial process that is generally well understood and competently operated in the commercial world. Due to the off-shoring of manufacture, British Anodisation companies will generally compete in niche markets and through providing consistently high quality work on difficult and short run jobs.

The type of work undertaken by anodisers in Britain is generally resistant to automation and relies upon a significant human labour input (loading/unloading, transport and inspection of parts). Quality is achieved through disciplined working practices that have been refined through experience and this paradigm must be respected through the journey of digital transformation.

Issues arising after anodisation are generally caused by preceding steps and usually cannot be compensated for by the process itself. Defects result in rework or spoilage and the prevention of such problems relies upon refined procedures and careful handling/inspection of parts.

There is not a widespread pressing demand for fundamental research due to the maturity of the process. Research and innovation work would be best focused upon developing in-situ sensors, building process parameter development tools and generalising process models to create positive impact in the industry.

Pressure from environmental regulations may provide an additional stimulus to research, innovation and industry players. The transition from established chemical make-ups will cause disruption that could be greatly eased by a functional digitalisation system.

Digitalisation effort should focus upon in-situ sensing of anodic film thickness (several potentially cost-effective technologies have been repeatedly proven in lab settings) and implementing parts traceability systems for issue identification and prediction. These systems could reduce operator workload, improve consistency and increase the responsiveness of anodisation companies by enabling them to adapt to variations in job or material specifications without disrupting known-good procedures.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCentre for Intelligent Autonomous Manufacturing Systems, Queen's University Belfast
Number of pages43
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2022

Publication series

NameTechnical Report 2021-01


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