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Aerospace and Aviation

Lighter, cheaper and still safe

Additive manufacturing can raise great potential in the aerospace industry, but must also overcome high hurdles

The aerospace industry offers the additive manufacturing industry more great opportunities than almost any other industry, but it also has high barriers for the introduction of new a technology. No other industry has researched and developed additive technologies and applications so intensively in recent years. Nevertheless, the number of additively manufactured parts in aircraft and rockets is still quite manageable. But a lot will happen in the coming years: After all, these parts help to make components, fuselage segments, engines and thus the entire aircraft or rocket lighter. And numerous newly designed parts and components optimized for additive manufacturing have long been on the way.

An important driver for additive developments in the aviation industry is the airlines' high kerosene costs. To reduce these costs, ever lighter aircraft are in demand. Design engineers are relying here on bionic structures or slimmer designs that can still withstand the required loads. "The more an aircraft is improved, the more additive manufacturing will be used," says Jens Telgkamp, who worked at Airbus Operations as Manager Airframe Research & Technology and then moved to the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences as Professor.

Non-safety-relevant plastic parts are already quite numerous in the aircraft, and especially in the cabin. The introduction of the often safety-relevant metal components takes several years. In addition, production is also much more demanding: in addition to the actual additive production, post-processing and quality control require a great deal of effort.

Additive manufacturing has also long since arrived in the space sector: since 2017, the first additive component of an Ariane rocket has been flying. Here, too, weight savings can significantly reduce mission costs. In addition, competitive pressure has increased significantly as a result of new players such as Space X, so that, for example, the cost of engines must be reduced significantly in order to remain competitive in the future.

Those who master the additive production process can play an important role in a very attractive industry. After all, the number of possible components and applications is immense: from satellite mounts in space travel to cheaper or lighter engine or structural components to the repair of engine blades using LMD technology. Safran, for example, presented a demonstrator of the new Add+ engine, which was assembled from 30 percent additive parts. And the US company Sintavia put its first additive factory into operation in mid-2019. Sintavia intends to make conventional production, especially investment casting redundant.

For aerospace users, designers and decision makers, additive manufacturing is essential to achieve future goals for lighter aircraft and more efficient manufacturing. It can be assumed that the AM industry will bring even more production technologies to the market in the future, which will further increase the opportunities for the aerospace sector.

Anyone wishing to take a closer look at the various technologies, plants and the associated materials and process steps as efficiently as possible will be well advised to visit Formnext, the leading trade fair for additive manufacturing and modern industrial production, from 19 - 22 November 2019 in Frankfurt am Main.

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