Jun 16, 2015 | By Simon

Although we’ve seen just how much of an impact additive manufacturing can have on a range of industries for creating both iterative prototypes as well as finished, manufactured products, industries that use metal materials in the additive manufacturing process are among those that are seeing the greatest results.

Previously, we’ve seen metal-based 3D printing being used for everything from race car parts to helicopter engine parts; the ability to quickly change a design is not only effective from a time-based standpoint but also cost.  Now, South Korea has turned to the technology for repairing the country’s F-15K fighter jets, which are made by American manufacturer Boeing McDonnell Douglas.    

The repair in question was focused on the outer ring of the existing titanium alloy Ti6Al4V turbine casing.  Not only would the repair help save the country over six figures  annually, it would also shave off valuable repair time that otherwise would have taken several months rather than several days.   

To repair the jets, the decision was made to utilize laser-aided Direct Metal Tooling (DMT) additive manufacturing technology, which involves melting metal powders with a high power laser; it is the same process that has been used to create other parts for the aerospace industry as well.

To create the parts, the Korean Aero Technology Research Institute called upon GE and the  German 3D printer manufacturer InssTek - an expert on the technology - to help create the parts with their Grand Teton 3D printer, their flagship 3D printer.  Due to the printer’s large build volume - 2000 x 1000 x 1000 mm - the parts were able to be printed as a single solid rather than from assembled, smaller parts.  

According to InssTek, “DMT 3D metal printing technology among the most innovative generative manufacturing processes. This technology melts commercially-available metal powders using a high power laser and formed from complex material structures on the basis of 3D CAD files. It is one of the latest 3D metal printing technology and is classified ‘Disposition Directed Energy’ in accordance with ASTM standard in the category.”

Compared to more widely-used ‘powder bed fusion technologies’, DMT 3D metal printing is a more economical solution and in some cases has even better mechanical properties than traditionally-manufactured metal parts.  

“With this new method we can save not only the expense of several hundred thousand Euros each year, but also the repairing time has been dramatically reduced,” said project leader Lieutenant Colonel B. S. Lee.

“Waiting for new spare parts for many weeks is now finally passé.”



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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