Fiona Schulz is new researcher at the Department of Industrial and Materials Science. She will shed new light on research of microstructures in nickel-based superalloys for metal additive manufacturing. Photo: Carina Schultz
Field of research: Additive manufacturing of nickel-based superalloys focusing on the relationship between microstructure and mechanical properties, mainly related to Centre for Additive Manufacture – Metal (CAM2).
Give us a short info about you. How did your career start?
“I grew up in the west of Germany. To explore more corners of the country, I took my BSc in the north, in Bremen, and did my course internship at ZF Friedrichshafen in the very south at Lake Constance. After that I moved to the point furthest away from any coast on the UK 'island' – as I was welcomed in my first lecture in Birmingham. Here, I discovered that both road cycling and rowing were excellent distractions from doing a PhD."
What attracted you to Chalmers?
"As a University of Technology, Chalmers offers so much potential for research and learning, both in materials science and cross-collaborations. I specifically applied because working at CAM2 is a great opportunity for me to explore metal additive manufacturing (AM), and the role basically described what I wanted to do – applied research!”
What did you do before coming to Chalmers?
“I did my PhD at the metallurgy and materials department at the University of Birmingham. My focus was on the relationship of microstructure and mechanical properties in a nickel superalloy in collaboration with Rolls Royce – not the cars but the aero engines!
After that I joined Materials Solutions – a Siemens business where I discovered metal AM in an industrial and production environment. There I had the chance to gain experience across the entire manufacturing chain for an AM component. And while it certainly was a very challenging environment, I missed the research a little bit too much…and that’s how I landed here.”
What type of challenges do you find most interesting / what kind of challenges do you foresee?
“On a research level, one of the big challenges is to understand the microstructure and what it means for the material and component use.
On a personal level, I find having multiple research projects going on at the same time both exciting and challenging – as was starting to learn Swedish…where do all those consonants go?!”
How do you see your role as a key player in CAM2?
“For one, I like being part of a team – and research is really a form of team sport! And considering that nickel superalloys are increasingly important for metal AM and will be a fixed part of its future, my background in these materials will be complementary to the research topics that are already being investigated at the centre. Having gained two years of industry experience also helps navigating the many collaborations between companies and CAM2 and I can offer a perspective on the industrial applications and expectations for metal AM.”
What are you most passionate about in your research?
“I am fascinated by the fact that the different aspects of microstructure can have such a huge effect on how you can use the material later. And additive manufacturing adds another level of complexity as we’re still understanding how the processing parameters and post-processing procedures influence the material – AM microstructures can look completely different to what we’re used to from other manufacturing processes.”
AM is often mentioned together with sustainability. Can you see some extraordinary possibilities with the method?
“I see the complete re-thinking of design (component design but also material dependent design) as a possility. To make systems, like gas turbines for power generation more sustainable, they have to run more efficiently. Reducing weight through clever re-design, improving flowability through surface feature design, and producing near-net-shape parts made of difficult to manufacture high temperature materials are some of the many opportunities available through AM to achieve that.
Read more about Fiona Schulz
Film about her research at University of Birmingham