In the aerospace industry, every single gram counts. As a matter of fact, the #1 way for aerospace companies to save money is by reducing weight. Why? It’s simple: The lower the weight, the lower the fuel consumption and emissions. Vice versa: The higher an aircraft’s payload is, the more fuel consumption, emissions, speed and ultimately safety will all suffer. The solution? Additive Manufacturing. 3D printing components enables an immediate weight saving, which translates directly into cost savings.
Additive manufacturing opens up a myriad of new application opportunities, especially for the aerospace and aviation industry: Lightweight construction, major functional enhancements, and yet undreamt-of combinations of specialized materials. In short, additive manufacturing offers a huge competitive edge.
Above all, AM enables architects to offer their clients customized designs and unique pieces. AM provides architects, designers with a breathtakingly powerful tool, letting them visualize and modify a 3D concept model quickly and cost-effectively, saving precious time to dedicate to making their inspiring visions a reality.
Constructing an aircraft means working out how to control internal airflow. Fresh air is vital for passengers and crew, while precise airflow control is crucial for controlling cabin pressurization and temperature.
Guiding air efficiently around corners and minimizing pressure loss while respecting a predefined design space (see figure below) is already a challenge itself. Perfect geometry is required to ensure ideal functionality – and when air ducts are applied in aircraft design it gets even more complicated, as space constraints and curved cabin walls need to be integrated. Plus, an air duct needs to be heat-resistant and flame-retardant. Of course, we also need to remember that weight is a major limitation factor on aerospace component design.
At Forward AM we took up the challenge to develop an air duct optimized for the aerospace industry. In fact, we redesigned the entire component’s geometry. To understand the challenge fully, we first ran an exhaustive Ultrasim® simulation under differentiated operating parameters to replace laborious and costly material testing. We then applied our bespoke Virtual Engineering software to rethink the part from zero. This approach enabled us to identify a radically new design solution based on AM technology and materials. By applying the following process steps we developed a unique optimal alternative to traditional air ducts used in aircraft:
In working out the design we specifically engineered it for printing via both Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) and Laser Sintering (LS). The improved air duct design was then printed using two of our flame-retardant materials: Ultrasint® PA6 FR (more information here) and Ultrafuse® PPSU– the latter being in current development phases.
Ultrasint® PA6 FR is an advanced engineering polymer powder containing a halogen fee flame-retardant (FR) additive. Combining excellent mechanical and thermal performance with flammability requirements, it’s a perfect choice for aerospace as well as electronics and public transport applications. Ultrasint® PA6 FR successfully passed Aerospace Vertical Flammability (12 and 60 s), Smoke Density and Smoke Toxicity (FST) tests.
Forward AM delivers a solution that adds real value for aerospace industry customers – by combining the vast potential of Additive Manufacturing, Ultrasim®-based Virtual Engineering, and our highly advanced engineering-grade materials.
The redesigned air duct displays the best-possible surface contour for minimum pressure loss. It can easily be adapted to any other specific construction parameters, directionality or number of nozzles, while achieving very significant space and weight savings.
Building on extensive experience in aerospace component manufacturing, we know that part and process optimization for Additive Manufacturing is crucial for the industrial AM products of the future. At Forward AM we provide our customers with an end-to-end virtual workflow, deep material expertise, and industry-leading AM process know-how.