Case Study: Additive Manufacturing in Aerospace

Forward AM – Giving Wings to Aerospace




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.

 

Ready for Takeoff – with Additive Manufacturing

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.

No wonder that the aerospace sector is a prime mover in additive manufacturing: Leading manufacturers are relying on AM to minimize supply chain bottlenecks, cut warehousing requirements, and reduce material wastage from traditional production processes. In AM, material is added rather than removed – a critical factor in the reduction of production waste, a key sustainability aspect in this day and age.

Applying AM professionally in the aerospace industry can also result in lower fuel consumption and less carbon dioxide emissions, competition-beating factors that all players seek.

The Challenge We Faced

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:

Virtual to Real – A Lightweight, Better-performing Aerospace Part

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, 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.

Material Properties of Ultrasint® PA6 FR

Material Properties of Ultrafuse® PPSU

Printing Guidelines for FFF

Result: Lightweight Aerospace Air Duct with Optimal Functionality

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.

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Powder for PBF

Ultrasint® PA6 FR

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1. Reduced Weight
3D printing parts allows you to build lightweight, yet sturdy structures. Saving material through the right design and technology makes a significant contribution to a more sustainable future of aerospace.


2. Complex Parts
Additive manufacturing enables the realisation of complex components with a multitude of individual design options. These custom parts made from a single piece, however intricate they may be, are sturdy and less prone to damage. Our applications offer an array of technologies for the printing of complex parts – from our Virtual Engineering, to prototyping, and our highly advanced engineering-grade materials.


3. Cost Reductions
Printing parts lowers production costs significantly: Through rapid prototyping and virtual engineering, components can be produced quickly and cost-effectively without previous tooling. The production of components made from a single piece reduce assembly time, making manufacturing considerably economical.


4. Meet Industry Requirements
At Forward AM we build on our extensive experience in aerospace component manufacturing and the innovations of our researchers and scientists. 3D printed parts made from our state-of-the-art materials meet the highest industry requirements, combining excellent mechanical and thermal performance.