Additive Manufacturing has many applications in AERO industry.
It is getting more and more as metal AM has passed a threshold
of technical maturity to be applied in manufacturing processes.
With further improvements on process monitoring and quality
control Direct Metal AM has a bright future in AERO industry ahead.
High tech / high value materials paired with complex shapes to realize
lightweight structures makes AM technologies ideal to use for AERO.
Weight savings are impacting significantly the business case over the
entire life cycle of a plane. Further the Buy2Fly ratio can be reduced
significantly by using Additive Manufacturing technologies.
The big players like BOEING, Airbus and Lockheed Martin have identified
this potentials already years ago. But now the time has come that AM
can be applied for production.
What are the applications?
By far the strongest push for the use of Additive Manufacturing in aero industry
comes from GE AERO. Probably best known is GEs program to built fuel nozzles
for the new LEAP engine generation using laser based powder bed fusion.
But the first part receiving clearance by U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is
was sensor housing. In a joined project with BOEING this part will be retrofitted on
400 GE90-94B one engine type powering BOEING’s 777.
CFM International is a join venture of GE and French engine manufacturer Snecma (SAFRAN).
Each LEAP engine will contain 19 of these additively built fuel nozzles to reduce weight,
fuel consumption and offer longer lifetime compared to the traditional design.
This program highlights what cost saving potential AM has to offer for aero.
Read more about the project in detail here.
This image let imagine the complexity of the internal structures Greg Morris
was talking about in this interview [video]. The internal channels built into the
part making the nozzle a sort of heat exchanger. It’s using the fuel as a coolant
to make the part able to withstand the high temperatures inside the jet engine
Part of GEs push is the Italian based aero supplier AVIO AERO (acquired by GE 2013)
AVIO AERO is using laser and electron beam based powder bed fusion systems
and is also developing and producing own powders for their production processes [link]
Turbomeca (SAFRAN) is a French manufacturer of helicopter turbines.
Turbomeca launched a press release announcing to increase their
use of Selective Laser Melting and having one system qualified for
mass production. One of the components produced are combustion
swirlers. The advantage to use SLM in this application is having the
ability to join several components into one piece. Less joints mean
less surfaces to prepare, less joining processes and less effort to
inspect the the joints. Read the press release here [ link ]
But it is not just all about jet engine components
Aerospace companies have been looking into using AM technologies
for structural components for many years.
With increasing productivity and improving machine reliability
of metal AM systems this applications are coming closer and closer.
Topology Optimized structural parts
Topology Optimization is method to utilize a defined space in the most efficient way to handle
specific load-cases within certain boundary conditions. To put it in other words: It’s a mathematical
model that provides the optimal geometry for a part to handle specific forces applied.
Weight saving of over 50% compared to conventional designs are not uncommon.
Topology Optimization results oftentimes in very organic looking shapes. This free-form shapes can
be produced with Additive Manufacturing in very efficient way.
Topology optimized Aero bracket designed and produce at LZN in Hamburg Germany [link]
The LZN (Laser Zentrum Nord) is a University spin-off from Technical University Hamburg Harburg.
A cooperation with AIRBUS shows impressively how academia research can be moved into production.
Peter Sander Manager Emerging Technologies & Concepts at AIRBUS Operations GmbH Germany
gave a keynote presentation on Additive Manufacturing at AIRBUS at this years (2015) RapidTech in Erfurt Germany.
BOEINGs activities to push further into AM technologies are highlighted in this article from www.manufacturingglobal.com
[Link to article]
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