Oct 5, 2016 | By Alec

The aerospace sector is rapidly becoming one of the main drivers of metal 3D printing technology, and their weight and material constraints are constantly pushing the innovation envelope. This has again been underlined by Belgian 3D printing giant Materialise and digital services specialist Atos, who have together developed a groundbreaking aerospace component: 3D printed titanium inserts that are nearly 70 percent lighter than currently used parts.

These revolutionary inserts, which can only be manufactured through 3D printing, were unveiled last week during ECSSMET 2016, the European Conference on Spacecraft Structures, Materials and Environmental Testing. It is a joint success of Atos and Materialise, with the latter needing no introduction in 3D printing circles. The Belgian company’s 3D printing services have been at the forefront of healthcare, automotive and aerospace innovations for years. ATOS, meanwhile, is a huge provider of digital and imaging services, with an annual revenue of about €12 billion. Though involved in a wide range of industries, they have also been working on 3D printing platforms and 3D scanning solutions since 2012.

This new component builds upon the extensive experience of both companies, and could usher in a new chapter in aerospace 3D printing. The part in question is a highly loaded insert that is used as mounting point for big and heavy structures, including panels in satellites. As the companies revealed, a joint team performed a comprehensive study of currently used parts, and reduced their weight to just a third of their initial weight, improving several properties and performance along the way. In total, the weight was reduced from 1454 grams to 500 grams – a highly impressive 66 percent reduction.

This staggering difference paves the way for a wide range of cost-saving opportunities. Classically, the parts are used to transfer high mechanical loads in satellites and other space-bound structures. Made from aluminum or titanium and consisting of a 100 percent solid brick shape, they are bulky, unwieldy and unnecessarily heavy. Through 3D printing, the interior of the brick can be (partially) hollowed out or filled with supporting lattices, reducing the amount of used material to exactly what is necessary. While perhaps unnecessarily expensive for use here on earth, it costs about $20,000 to send a single kilogram into orbit – so 3D printing more efficient components could save millions in the aerospace sector.

What’s more, development was very efficient, reveals Atos Spain’s mechanical engineering director Marta García-Cosío. “We are proud with this innovation. By creating this complex product in metal additive manufacturing in such a short time, Atos and Materialise are amongst the top of providers of Metal 3D Printing solutions. The weight reduction will allow the increase of useful equipment to be used in satellites and result in considerable cost saving in each launch,” she said.

During the design process itself, the engineering team set out to overcome all traditional design concepts with a complete focus on aerospace requirements. In that, Atos’ expertise in simulating aerospace engineering concepts proved crucial, and enabled designers to work on both the interior and exterior of the part – enhancing overall performance. Experts in aerospace, Computer-Aided-Engineering, structural design, and materials science applications were all involved.

They actually 3D printed two final parts in titanium, using Materialise’s Selective Laser Melting (SLM) 3D printing systems in the Materialise Metal 3D Printing Factory in Bremen, Germany. The factory is Materialise’s premier metal 3D printing center, and the results demonstrate the technology’s ability to reduce lead times and avoid prior tooling altogether. Alongside the presentation of the parts, the companies also released a study entitled ‘Additive Manufacturing Hot Bonded inserts in sandwich structures’, which will aid engineers in applying the same principles to other aerospace components.

After such a success, it would be pointless to change a winning team. Atos and Materialise are therefore planning to continue this partnership to provide industry-level end-to-end engineering solutions through 3D printing, involving experts from both companies.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Abby Normal wrote at 10/6/2016 5:44:33 AM:

Atos is a dirty word in the UK, next thing we'll be hearing is they are printing devices to help improve the lives of disabled people.

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