Additive Manufacturing is applied in a wide range of application in aviation industry
AM is more and more commonly applied as metal AM has passed a threshold of technical maturity to be applied in full-scale manufacturing processes. With further improvements regarding process stability through process monitoring and quality control, direct metal AM has a bright future in AERO industry ahead.
High tech and high-value materials paired with complex shapes to realise
light weight 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
these 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)
was a sensor housing. In a joined project with BOEING this part will be retrofitted
400 GE90-94B one engine type powering BOEING’s 777.
CFM International is a joint 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
fewer surfaces to prepare, less joining processes and less effort to
inspect 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 these applications are coming closer and closer.
Topology Optimised structural parts
Topology Optimization is a method to utilise 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 Optimisation 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 academic 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 2015s RapidTech in Erfurt Germany.
In April 2016
ALCOAs AM service provider ARCONIC announced an agreement to supply metal AM parts to AIRBUS.
Under this deal, ARCONIC will provide additively manufactured Titanium fuselage and engine pylon parts.
Read the press release here: www.arconic.com/
In December 2016 the business relationship got extended with a second contract to further provide nickel base super alloys for the A320 family.
Read the press release here: www.arconic.com/
BOEINGs activities to push further into AM technologies are highlighted in this article: www.manufacturingglobal.com
Further BOEING had been able to certify the first structural Titanium part in 2017 www.reuters.com/article/us-norsk-boeing-idUSKBN17C264