Sep 14, 2017 | By David

The aerospace sector has been one of 3D printing technology’s main new adopters over the last few years or so, and all kinds of manufacturers and suppliers at every level of the industry have been using additive manufacturing to rethink or even revolutionize the way aircraft are put together. The latest development comes from French aviation supplier Sogeclair, which has used 3D printing to come up with an innovative new way to produce doors for aircraft, saving materials and money as well as drastically reducing weight. Prototypes were presented for the first time at this year’s Paris Air Show.

The aviation industry is facing increasing pressure to change the way that it operates, primarily due to the planet’s impending climate change-based doom. As one of the biggest and least necessary global contributors to the consumption of fossil fuels, aircraft need to be significantly more efficient and economical with fuel in order to limit their environmental impact. This will also be advantageous for the industry in terms of saving money and materials. Making aircraft more lightweight is one of the key ways that this decrease in fuel consumption can be achieved, so the latest breakthroughs in aerospace design tend to have this weight reduction as one of their key features.

Sogeclair’s new manufacturing process aims to produce more lightweight aircraft doors by enabling more freedom at the initial design phase, and it can achieve this through a combination of 3D printing technology from 3D printer manufacturer voxeljet, and more conventional manufacturing techniques.

First, a 3D model was created in CAD software after an extensive research project. The team of aerospace design experts were able to develop a new blueprint for a door that would use a bionic network of aluminium struts to reduce material usage and thus cut the weight by 30 percent, without sacrificing any of the strength of their older door designs.

The challenge was then to make this 3D design a reality, which required the use of voxeljet’s 3D printing system to make a large precision mold. An acrylic substance known as polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) was used, which would normally have necessitated the use of expensive tooling methods as the new mold design had never been realized before with this material. With 3D printing technology, however, this complex geometry can be produced much more directly. The VX1000 3D printer, with a huge build volume of 1,000 x 600 x 500 mm, was well suited to this project, and it also enabled designers to make changes directly on- screen while 3D printing was taking place.

The PMMA came in powder form, and was 3D printed using the binder jetting method. In opposition to laser sintering or stereolithography, this technique makes use of an extruding print head and a special binder, which is selectively deposited to join the powder particles together in place. In this way, the 3D shape is built up layer-by-layer. Material properties of the PMMA were key to getting the results that Sogeclair needed, according to Thierry Herrero, West Europe Sales Director for voxeljet: “Compared with other additive processable materials, such as liquid resins in stereolithography, PMMA is excellent for burning out. The main reason for this is the negative expansion coefficient of our powder material, which does not lead to any fractures when burning out the thin-walled model.”

After being sealed with hot wax, this can eventually be sent to a foundry, where the model is smelted and filled with molten aluminium to create the finished door. The prototype was first presented between June 19 – 25, 2017 at the Paris aviation show. voxeljet and Sogeclair will be exhibiting the same prototype from 14th – 17th of November at the formnext fair 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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