Eligibility must be assessed on an activity level, rather than project level. Within a manufacturing project, there are likely to be some activities that qualify as core R&D activities, some that qualify as supporting R&D activities, and some activities that are not eligible.
Make It Fast considered its activities against the definitions of core and supporting R&D activities.
It self-assessed that the new die cast tool, along with a new material composition, to achieve increased cooling met the requirements to be a core R&D activity because:
- There was no current knowledge that it could find in technical publications, existing off the shelf manufacturing processes and other publicly available sources that it could leverage to develop a suitable tool design. Tool blueprints are proprietary in nature, and while casting and 3D printing equipment can be readily accessed, they do not provide knowledge on the tooling design to achieve the optimum operating conditions, such as casting temperatures.
- It could only determine the outcome through a systematic progression of work based on the principles of an established science, in this case the fields of engineering design and materials science. Experimentation commenced with computational fluid dynamics modelling to evaluate the effect of different cooling channel designs (e.g., shape, thickness) on heat dissipation. Finite Element Modelling was used to evaluate the structural integrity of the tool materials against the different channel design options. One-off tooling prototypes were then produced for real world, physical trials. Independent variables tested included tooling material and channel shape and dimensions. Dependent variables evaluated included sprue temperatures and production cycle time.
- It planned to generate new knowledge about the design of a diecast tooling model with highly complex geometries to achieve improved cooling. It was proposed that ‘conformal’ cooling channels with thinner walls could be achieved in the new tooling design to maximise the effects of heat dissipation. Further, new learnings will be gained in selection of a material that could provide the structural integrity to enable conformal cooling channel design to be applied in the die cast tool.
In addition to the core R&D, Make It Fast assessed that activities including project management, background technical reviews, prototype/ test equipment set-up could be registered as supporting R&D activities. These tasks were all within the skills and experience of the company, however, they were directly related to the core R&D activity and the experiments could not be carried out without them.
Additional activities carried out after new knowledge had been created (such as maintenance and safety related work) did not meet the definitions of core or supporting R&D activities.