Jun 25, 2018 | By Thomas

French naval defense specialist Naval Group and engineering school Centrale Nantes have successfully 3D printed their first full-scale propeller blade demonstrator for military applications using the Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) process.

This large, geometrically complex propeller blade weighs over 300kg.

Credit: Naval Group and Centrale Nantes

“Printing this demonstrator is a major step towards the manufacture of innovative propellers by additive manufacturing," stated Vincent Geiger, Director of Naval Group’s Naval Research Technology Research Center. "These initial results mean that it’s possible to envisage the short-term commissioning of differentiated propellers for the ships that will use them.”

Unlike most metal 3D printing systems, which fabricate objects from metal powders, the WAAM additive manufacturing machine uses steel wire as feedstock, heating the material with an electric arc and using shielding gas to protect the process from airborne contaminants. The wire feedstock makes manufacturing faster and cheaper, since the steel is already partially formed as it is printed.

Centrale Nantes said that with additive manufacturing it is possible to design parts that could not be made previously with standard production technologies.

It added that by lifting the limits imposed by traditional processes, these technologies pave the way for innovative parts design and assembly, and thus for the production of propellers providing greater efficiency, performance (autonomy and propulsion), stealth and weight savings.

Professor Jean-Yves Hascoët, who heads up the Rapid Manufacturing Platform at Centrale Nantes further explained, “additive manufacturing is a process that offers unlimited possibilities: less material used, integration of additional features and geometrically-complex parts assembly. It allows for new designs, weight savings, lower manufacturing costs.”

Last year, the Port of Rotterdam’s Additive Manufacturing Fieldlab (RAMLAB) has also successfully produced its first 3D printed propeller using a hybrid manufacturing process that combines wire and arc additive manufacturing with subtractive machining and grinding processes.

Centrale Nantes says it has the industrial means and the extensive expertise in trajectory generation and additive manufacturing required for blade production. With the work being done at Naval Group and Centrale Nantes, the team hopes to accelerate the cross-industry adoption of hybrid manufacturing for making large-scale parts on-demand.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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