May.29, 2013

At the 16th China International High-tech Expo which took place during May 21-26, 2013 in Beijing, AVIC Laser, a subsidiary of AVIC Heavy Machinery, showed off the world's largest titanium aircraft critical component produced using 3D Laser Direct Manufacturing technology.

AVIC Laser displayed, for the first time, a large 3D printed titanium part for J-20 or J-31 stealth fighter. According to AVIC Laser, their 3D Laser Direct Manufacturing technology has been used in producing 7 kinds of aircraft, including Y-20 Strategic Airlifter, J-15 carrier-borne fighter, C919 airliner and next generation stealth fighters. The J-15's chief designer confirmed in March that printable components are being used "in major load-bearing parts, including the [J-15's] front landing gear."

AVIC Laser was established in 2000. Funded by Chinese government, especially the military, the team has solved several technical difficulties during the first seven years' research and development of the technology, such as "inert gas protection system", "defect control", "metal lattice growth control" etc. On Jan.18, 2013 AVIC Laser won the national technology invention award in Beijing.

The 3D Laser Direct Manufacturing technology could lower the cost of titanium parts to only 5 percent of the original. It costs about 25 million yuan ($4m) to process one ton titanium alloy complex structural parts using traditional method, but with 3D Laser Direct Manufacturing it costs only 1.3 million ($212k).

Currently AVIC Laser's 3D Laser Direct Manufacturing technology can be used to make large structural parts using titanium alloy, high-strength steel, high temperature & high strength steel. Compared with conventional processes, this technology could save up to 90% of materials and costs. And if the forged titanium parts on an American F-22 were made using the Chinese 3D printing technology, around 40 percent of the weight can be reduced.

It's not only military planes that will benefit from this, the Northwestern Polytechnical University of China has also used the same technology to print out a five meter-long titanium wing beam for the C919 passenger plane which is expected to be put into commercial operation in 2016.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Paul wrote at 3/11/2015 3:11:15 PM:

One can not take an existing part and use 3d printing on that same geometry and expect the same strength. However, it is perfectly valid to engineer the part knowing taking the different material properties and 3D print the result. They don't indicate which approach was taken.

Griptite wrote at 11/13/2014 4:44:52 PM:

3D powder costs 30 times more than qualified titanium. Takes much more time to produce than a hogged out parts. Provide total manugacturing time. Provide Tensile strength, compression strength for the finished part. Provide grain structure of part compaired to qualified titanium plate. Provide fatigue test results and test methods used also for the above tests. Also provide appropriate enviromental tests results and test methods. This information is needed just to begin the discussion on what appears to be a great achievement in this technology.

Griptite wrote at 11/13/2014 2:55:22 AM:

Lets compare The grain structure to milled plate of qualified titanium. Present tensile and compression strength. and test methods. Present fatigue test results and the test methods. Then we can make a judgement.

Mihaita CARBUNARU wrote at 8/20/2014 2:11:04 PM:

If you look closer at the picture the external surface of the part is have a texture specific for 3D printing (paralel lines from the layers separation) but the inside cavitys are done or finished with an CNC (spiraled texture).

Kris wrote at 8/22/2013 4:05:59 PM:

There's plenty of youtube videos on this proces. The Ti is layed up with a laser and then finish milled. This process basically reduces the roughing operations by laying up just enough material so there is minimul finishing on a CNC.

Peter wrote at 6/4/2013 6:52:09 PM:

@jd90, well you can choose to believe or not believe. You can believe they are faking it while they actually did some innovation. If they are faking it and publically declare such fakings to the world, eventually they will be found out and humiliated. So for you to make a more accurate statement, maybe you should research AVIC laser and its history first to see whether they are capable of creating new processes for better 3D printing first?

Peter wrote at 6/4/2013 6:45:34 PM:

AVIC laser claim they already solved the problem of fatigue using this process. If they really did solve it, it would be an innovation

Eric wrote at 6/4/2013 2:42:30 AM:

I am not a 3d printing expert, but I am fairly familiar with material science and alloy's mechanical properties. Nowadays, profit-seeking business are twisted with science and engineering advancement, so don't believe these 3D printing miracles for something people have worked for decades. I bet the day that people can 3D printing a working titanium alloys is still decades away.

jd90 wrote at 6/1/2013 2:53:41 AM:

My point was that it wasn't very well described. It was clearly finish milled, but they didn't say that. It's possible they could have just milled it and claimed they printed it. It is possible to pass off that kind of stuff on journalists that generally wouldn't know better. roller, which counterpart to this part on the F-22 is made from two pieces? I've looked around and not found it.

Vic wrote at 5/30/2013 3:00:56 PM:

Guess Nick knows better than all the Chinese engineers. They probably didn't do any fatigue testing at all on these parts and just decided to bulk-produce them and use them, right? See someone do something innovative and great? Try to BS and talk down their achievement. What a champ.

CLAZM wrote at 5/30/2013 11:19:50 AM:

It is standard, for areas where you want a precise dimension or a given surface aspect to mill after 3D printing the part. Savings are huge and this technology will gain more and more momentum. In all areas. Boeing and Airbus are also heavily investing in this technology. In the same manner, plastic 3D printing with desktop printers will explode in the coming years -- including in households.

Nick wrote at 5/30/2013 3:29:55 AM:

The fatigue life for these parts are going to be terrible. 3d printing from metal powders leaves voids throughout the printed part. These voids will be the source of cracks that will eventually nucleate due to fatigue loading. The cracks will then coalesce and the part will fail causing the plane to fall out of the sky. Wrought metal on the other hand is almost completely free of voids in the microstructure making it much better for light weight aircraft structures where fatigue life is a high concern.

GPaulsen wrote at 5/29/2013 11:12:24 PM:

Sciaky Direct Manufacturing (EBDM) process deposits a titanium bead on plate which created a near-shape "3D printed" metal object. They can make titanium parts with a build area of 19ft x 4ft x 4ft (maybe larger/longer). I believe the Chinese part was made with a similar process which requires post machining. Still a marvel and practical example of using additive inside the aerospace realm. It definitely beats hogging out 90+% of material for an aerospace part from solid.

alidan wrote at 5/29/2013 3:09:30 PM:

@jd90 take a look at how 3d metal parts are made and how they look. the only way to make the precise enough is to print them with extra material, and than mill the material off. metal printing leaves a non clean finish to the parts, like they were sandblasted hard, if the core of that is as strong as traditional metalwork... this could be the advancement that 3d printing needs to really get its ass in gear in the industrial realm.

kc wrote at 5/29/2013 3:03:46 PM:

3d printed fighter jet at home... Mm... interesting

theone wrote at 5/29/2013 2:51:28 PM:

you are right the part was printed then milled, however still reduced 90% mill task.

CD wrote at 5/29/2013 1:57:30 PM:


Observer wrote at 5/29/2013 1:39:18 PM:

Why should jd90 thinks that the Chinese need to pass of a milled part as 3D printed. He should try to understand more about China own proprietary standard 3D Laser Direct Manufacturing technology before commenting after all this is probably the biggest piece of component manufactured using 3D printing technology in the world today. I doubt USA has similar machine installed yet.

roller wrote at 5/29/2013 1:28:37 PM:

jd90, Have you seen the same sections on an F-22? They have to be made in two separate parts not one whole piece.

jd90 wrote at 5/29/2013 5:10:18 AM:

The top part looks mill machined, it's not clear if they're trying to pass off a milled part as 3D printed, or if it was 3D printed, then finish milled.

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