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Metal 3D Printing for aerospace engineering

| Editor: Janina Seit

The top priority in aerospace engineering is to reduce weight. A novel metal 3D printing solution offered by Atos and Materialise contributes to achieving this objective. Materialise presented this functionally designed lightweight component at the user meeting place Leichtbau 2017.

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The top priority in aerospace engineering is to reduce weight. A novel metal 3D printing solution offered by Atos and Materialise contributes to achieving this objective.
( Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

A lightweight titanium insert — that sounds contradictory at first. But thanks to a novel metal 3D printing solution, the two companies Atos, an international provider of digital services, and Materialise NV, a provider of software and solutions for additive manufacturing and 3D printing, were able to develop a new type of titanium application for spacecraft applications with a mass reduction of two thirds. The joint approach offers both companies the opportunity to offer high-quality and innovative 3D printing solutions.

Weight Reduction of 70 %

Marta García-Cosío, Head of Mechanical Engineering at Atos Spain, says: "We are proud of this innovation. By creating this complex product as a metal additive in such a short time, Atos and Materialise are among the leading suppliers of metal 3D printing solutions. The weight reduction makes it possible to use many useful devices in satellites and leads to considerable cost savings at every launch."

The heavy-duty inserts serve as fixing points for lifting large and heavy structures. By reducing the weight of the component to one-third of its original weight, Atos and Materialise improved some of its properties and overall performance. Both companies used modern technologies for topology optimization and the design of grid structures to reduce the mass of the application from 1,454 g to 500 g.

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High Cost Per Kilogram of Material

In the aerospace industry, these applications transmit high mechanical loads in structures such as satellites. The brick-shaped inserts are usually made of aluminium or titanium as they are produced by means of metal cutting. These parts are completely solid, which increases their mass beyond the necessary extent.

Thanks to additive manufacturing, the interior of the objects can remain hollow or can be filled with lightweight structures. Filling material is only used if necessary. Currently, every kilogram of material in orbit costs around $ 20,000. Every gram saved opens up new possibilities.

The designers had to improve traditional concepts and the designs had to meet space travel requirements — from the planning phase to manufacturing. Atos' aerospace and structural simulation expertise has helped to design the exterior and interior of the component and improve its overall performance.

The Atos and Materialise team consists of experts in the fields of aerospace, computer aided engineering, construction, materials science and additive manufacturing.

Potential for Aerospace Applications

Metal 3D printing has great potential for the aerospace industry because it reduces lead times and does not require additional tools.
Metal 3D printing has great potential for the aerospace industry because it reduces lead times and does not require additional tools.
( Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

The titanium insert was manufactured by metal 3D printers in a process known as Selective Laser Melting (SLM). Metal 3D printing has great potential for the aerospace industry because it reduces lead times and does not require additional tools. Materialise has produced two inserts in its Bremen competence center for metal 3D printing and has demonstrated its expertise in advanced manufacturing and software development.

According to the companies, their partnership in the field of 3D printing for high-end engineering services is unique in Europe. The aim of the cooperation is to help experts and users to use additive manufacturing at an industrial level. In the future, they will be able to use 3D printing solutions from planning through to production, supplemented by advanced engineering.

The company's developer teams continue to work together to deliver an end-to-end solution. Atos and Materialise form a powerful combination for future manufacturing projects.

The novel titanium inserts were developed as part of the study "Additive Manufacturing Hot Bonded inserts in sandwich structures", which was written by both companies and presented at the ECSSMET in autumn 2016. The results will contribute to the increasing use of AM manufactured metal components in aerospace applications.

This article was first published by konstruktionspraxis.

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