Stewart Williams - Team Spotlight

September 13, 2023
5 min read

It is time to introduce you to another of our great team here at WAAM3D and it is fair to say that WAAM would not be in the position it is today without the hard work and commitment of this person. Stewart Williams is one of the company’s founders and Technical Director at WAAM3D. He also is a Professor at Cranfield University where he is director of the Welding and Additive Manufacturing Centre.

How long have you been at WAAM3D and where were you before?

The easy part of that question is that I have been at WAAM3D since its beginning when we set it up in 2018. ‘Where I was before’ is a slightly longer answer! I obtained my PhD in laser physics and then worked in industry. Initially this was for Edinburgh Instruments, an SME making lasers and laser systems, before joining British Aerospace, now known as BAE Systems. Here I ran a research team looking into manufacturing applications of lasers for almost 20 years, before joining Cranfield University in 2005.

During my time at BAE Systems, lightweight carbon fibre reinforced plastic was introduced onto aircraft. This created challenges, as the existing aluminium parts weren’t compatible with this newer material. Titanium was used instead, but it was much more expensive and harder to machine using traditional methods. An alternative to titanium forgings was required and this was the impetus I needed to investigate alternative technologies. I subsequently joined Cranfield University and initiated a 4-year Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) sponsored project to gain greater understanding of the science behind Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing and its possible benefits. I then set up WAAMMat, a programme where academia works closely with industry, to mature the technology and discern where it can best be used. My passion is to promote WAAM’s benefits to the wider manufacturing sector and to establish a supply chain that can bring this technology to market.  

What does your job at WAAM3D entail?

My primary role is to ensure the technical quality of the products developed at WAAM3D, to define the company’s technological strategy and to ensure effective transfer of technology from the University to WAAM3D.  

What do you love about your job?

For me the main thing is having satisfaction in seeing the output from the university being commercialised and delivered to our industrial customers and customers of Cranfield University. No other WAAM company has a research programme such as this, where the university is a shareholder in the company and has an integrated technology programme.  

Due to the symbiotic working relationship between the University and WAAM3D, we can take a research activity and produce it as a commercial product in as little as 2 years - normally the technology readiness levels (TRL) process can take 10 years or more! And the value of the research programmes focused on WAAM technology at the university is currently more than £10 million.

What challenges do you face in your job at WAAM3D?

Getting two different organisations, with differing cultures and ways of functioning, to work together smoothly can be challenging. It is important that all the teams at Cranfield University and WAAM3D recognise the value of our partnership and its benefits. We achieve this by undertaking a lot of joint projects; the university doing the lower TRL activities, from process design concepts, feasibility studies through to lab scale demonstration, and then joint projects are undertaken with WAAM3D to mature the technology.  

Tell me about somethings or something that you're most proud of that you've achieved at work at WAAM3D?

The high level of science, understanding and academic rigour we have brought to our research and development into WAAM technology is my proudest achievement. This is evidenced through more than 275 research papers, combined with in excess of 40 PhD and 100 master’s students who have completed projects focused on WAAM. This continues with our current programme, where we have 20 post-doctoral researchers working on WAAM. Through collaborating with other academic partners this more than doubles this number.  

The second of course is setting-up WAAM3D to provide a supply chain for the outputs from our WAAM research programme. WAAM3D is now established as a major player in the AM field and has more than 30 full time employees.  

Finally, the integrated technology programme between the university and WAAM3D is something I’m also very proud of. I believe it is a win-win arrangement for all stakeholders, the university, WAAM3D and our customers. It has opened the doors to be able to mature the technology, promote it to industry and has established a highly efficient and effective supply chain to our end partners. These achievements have been reached with the help of a superb team and people over the years. This includes all students, researchers and of course my WAAM3D co-founder colleagues Jialuo Ding and Filomeno Martina, both of whom have been with me for many years.

There are many up and coming developments that continue to push the boundaries of WAAM, which we expect to commercialise in future years. In the short-to-medium term there are a lot of exciting processes being worked on: these include delivering very high build rate processes of >30 kg/hour, precision processes, in process cold work and non-destructive testing.

What are your hobbies?

When I am not working, I’m either on the golf course or walking my dogs. Oscar is a Goldendoodle and at 45kgs in size keeps me on my toes, but the real boss is the much smaller Teagan - my Tibetan Terrier!

What is your favourite food?

My favourite food has to be Indian, as I love its flavours and spices. If I had to eat only one dish for the rest of my life, it would have to be Methi Gosht.

If you have a project that our Team can help with, get in touch.