Jan 18, 2018 | By Julia

Latécoère, a French aircraft design and manufacturing group, has become the latest firm to join the Stratasys client base, and fully integrate 3D printing into its business model. Earlier today the company announced that it has begun deploying Stratasys’ FDM additive manufacturing throughout its design and production process, in a move which is expected to vastly accelerate development times and improve business performance overall.

Latécoère currently services an impressive roster of aerospace giants, including Airbus, Bombardier, and Dassault. As business has improved, however, the mounting issue of lengthy lead-times and costly design iterations has also continued to rear its head. Faced with these difficulties, Latécoère made the decision to start working with the Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer, which it will be using for both rapid prototyping and production tooling.

a new Latécoère tool 3D printed on the Fortus 450mc

Although it’s still early days yet, Simon Rieu, Composite and Additive Manufacturing Manager at Latécoère’s R&D and Innovation Center, has noted that the company’s adoption of this technology has already been transformational in terms of both design and manufacturing. “Additive manufacturing has integrated seamlessly into our design and production process, and has seen us enjoy improved lead-times, reduced costs and enhanced operational efficiency,” he says. “As the requirements of the aerospace industry become more demanding, we’re also mindful of the need to maintain our competitive edge, and Stratasys additive manufacturing enables us to meet that objective.”

Up until now, Latécoère used traditional CNC machining for rapid prototyping, but the technique presented clear limitations. One of the firm’s first 3D printed prototypes, a part for the interior lining of an aircraft door, highlighted the stark contrast between the two production methods, explains Rieu. “Previously, this would have been made from sheet metal – an often-time-consuming process. With our Fortus 450mc 3D Printer, we produced a fully-functional prototype in two days, reducing our lead times by a staggering 95%,” he says. “Crucially this has accelerated our design validation process before committing to costly and time-consuming tooling.”

3D printed camera case prototype for the Airbus A380

Latécoère is also using the new Stratasys 3D printer for on-demand manufacturing of customized production tools. Since implementing the new system, company staff have reported significant reductions in time and cost, as well as enhanced operator efficiency. Whereas traditional sheet metal manufacturing would require six weeks to make a tool, Rieu says 3D printing the same tool can be done in two days, and made 50% lighter. “With our 3D printer, we can also optimize the geometry of the tool to perfectly fit the part – making the operator’s job much easier. Not only has this accelerated our production process dramatically, but I also estimate that we’ve reduced our tool production costs by a massive 40%.”

Looking ahead to future plans, the firm will be implementing 3D printing in the final production of parts for next-gen airplanes, meaning that leading aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing are expected to benefit as well. For now, Latécoère has already begun exploring the possibilities of certifying the Fortus 450mc for producing final interior aircraft parts. According to all involved, the new manufacturing plan has proved to be worth its weight in gold, and then some. Representatives from both Latécoère and Stratasys report they are looking forward to a bright future together.




Posted in 3D Printing Application



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