Oct.15, 2013

The European Space Agency (ESA, the "European NASA") has unveiled plans to "take 3D printing into the metal age" by developing the first large-scale production methods to 3D-print with metal. These 3d printed metal parts can be used for jets, spacecraft and fusion projects.

3D printing, formally known as additive manufacturing, can create complex shapes that are impossible to manufacture with traditional casting and machining techniques. Little to no material is wasted and cutting the number of steps in a manufacturing chain offers enormous cost benefits.

3D printers are expected to revolutionise the way we live but until recently they could work with only plastic, which is not very useful for many industrial applications.

The AMAZE project – Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste & Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products – began in January 2013 and brings together 28 institutions with the purpose of developing complex printed parts made of metal which are lighter, stronger and cheaper than conventional parts. These 3D printed metal parts can withstand temperatures at 3000°C which allows them to survive inside nuclear fusion reactors and on the nozzles of rockets.

ESA has revealed some of the parts at the showcase at the London Science Museum.

"We want to build the best quality metal products ever made. Objects you can't possibly manufacture any other way," said David Jarvis, Esa's head of new materials and energy research.


"If we can get 3D metal printing to work, we are well on the way to commercial nuclear fusion."


Totally 20 million Euro will be invested in this project. Pilot-scale industrial AM factories are being set up in France, Germany, Italy, Norway and the UK to develop the industrial supply chain. The 28 partners include Airbus, Astrium, RENISHAW, Volvo Technology, Norsk Titanium, Cranfield University, EADS, the University of Birmingham, and the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.

The project will design, demonstrate and deliver a modular streamlined work-flow at factory level, offering maximum processing flexibility during AM, a major reduction in non-added-value delays, as well as a 50% reduction in shop-floor space compared with conventional factories.

AMAZE will dramatically increase the commercial use of adaptronics, in-situ sensing, process feedback, novel post-processing and clean-rooms in AM, so that (i) overall quality levels are improved, (ii) dimensional accuracy is increased by 25% (iii) build rates are increased by a factor of 10, and (iv) industrial scrap rates are slashed to <5%.

In order to turn additive manufacturing into a mainstream industrial process, a sharp focus will also be drawn on pre-normative work, standardisation and certification, in collaboration with ISO, ASTM and ECSS.

zero waste

Printing metal parts would also cut waste. "To produce one kilo of metal, you use one kilo of metal - not 20 kilos," says Esa's Franco Ongaro. It produces almost "zero waste".

A weight reduction of even 1kg for a long range aircraft will save hundred of thousands of dollars over its lifespan.

The goal of AMAZE is to rapidly produce large defect-free 3D printed metallic components and to achieve 50% cost reduction for finished parts. "Our ultimate aim is to print a satellite in a single piece. One chunk of metal, that doesn't need to be welded or bolted," said Jarvis.

AMAZE researchers have already begun printing metal jet engine parts and aeroplane wing sections up to 2m in size.

But there are still some hurdles to pass – the "dirty secrets of 3D printing", said Jarvis.

"One common problem is porosity – small air bubbles in the product. Rough surface finishing is an issue too," he said. "We need to understand these defects and eliminate them – if we want to achieve industrial quality. And we need to make the process repeatable – scale it up. We can't do all this unless we collaborate between industries – space, fusion, aeronautics."

Source: BBC


Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Jethro wrote at 10/25/2013 6:39:22 PM:

Perhaps soon we will all have access to this wonderful technology! Just look at open source projects like the MetalBot project! http://www.metalbot.org

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