Jun 16, 2017 | By Benedict

French 3D printing company Prodways has presented its new Rapid Additive Forging (RAF) 3D printing method for printing large titanium parts. The company says aerospace companies could save up to 50% on titanium part production by using the technology.

Groupe Gorgé subsidiary Prodways has had an interesting year by anyone’s reckoning. Besides the rather large matter of its IPO launch on Euronext Paris, the 3D printing company has also unveiled new 3D printers, formed important AM partnerships, and even supplied its materials to sportswear giant Nike.

Prodways’ latest announcement could be its most exciting yet. On the eve of Le Bourget Paris Air Show, the French additive manufacturing specialist has unveiled its new Rapid Additive Forging technology, a new 3D printing process optimized for printing large titanium parts.

“Large metal parts for critical applications, in particular titanium parts for the aeronautical sector, [rely] on expensive and slow manufacturing processes often using combinations of forging and machining techniques,” Prodways says. In light of this, the company decided to create a process that merges the two machining techniques, and which is cheaper, faster, and less wasteful than either.

Prodways’ new RAF 3D printer isn’t your average metal printing system. The machine uses a robot equipped with a head that deposits molten metal in an atmosphere of inert gas. This metal is deposited layer by layer, and a large part can be completed within a few hours. That’s normal, but what comes next is less so.

According to Prodways, the RAF system quickly manufactures titanium blanks with “very similar geometry compared with the final part.” These blanks are then finish-machined, thus avoiding considerable losses of material which can represent up to 95% of the metal block with traditional machining processes. The system therefore contains elements of both additive and subtractive manufacturing.

Prodways’ new RAF Technology was developed in collaboration with Commercy Robotique, a subsidiary of Groupe Gorgé that has specialized in robotized welding for more than 40 years. A patent application for the new 3D printing process has been filed by Prodways Group.

Testing has been carried out on a variety of metals, though the technology is supposedly best suited for titanium 3D printing. Prodways has been able to print titanium parts up to 70 centimeters in size, and a forthcoming RAF 3D printer could take that capacity up to two meters.

Size isn’t everything of course, and Prodways claims that its additive manufacturing technology delivers on quality too. The company says its RAF technology uses a “distinctive metal deposition technology focusing on the metallurgical quality and the repeatability of the process,” adding that the first metallurgical tests conducted on different parts revealed “an absence of porosity and greater mechanical resistance compared with usual 3D metal printing techniques using laser or electron beam sintering.”

Excitingly, Prodways has already given a handful of aerospace companies a glimpse at its new 3D printing process. The French 3D printing specialist claims that several of these companies think RAF could be used on around half of their titanium aircraft components, leading to eventual cost savings of up to 50 percent.

The Le Bourget Paris Air Show takes place June 23-25. If you’re there, keep an eye out for Prodways and its exciting new manufacturing technology.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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