Honeywell Aerospace, the aerospace division of conglomerate Honeywell, has received a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification for its first 3D printed flight-critical engine component. The part in question – a #4/5 bearing housing – is a key structural component of the ATF3-6 turbofan engine found in the Dassault Falcon 20G maritime patrol aircraft. The part is already in production and has been installed in an operational Falcon unit, with dozens more expected to be printed by the end of the year.
Jon Hobgood, Vice President of Manufacturing Engineering at Honeywell Aerospace, states: “This is a major milestone for Honeywell because it demonstrates the maturity of our Additive Manufacturing operations and paves the way for us to print more certified, flight-critical parts in the future. It also is a major win for the additive industry, as flight-critical parts face heavy scrutiny and high standards for qualification and installation on aircraft, but this shows it can be done.”
Recently on the 3DPod, we discussed supply chain resilience with HP’s Ramon Pastor. He mentioned that he believes that cost-driven supply chains are a thing of the past. He said that, previously, companies thought that, if they had two suppliers for a part or factories in different countries, this was enough to ensure resilience.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all learned that this is not enough. A genuinely global crisis has meant that both of a company’s supplier factories separated by oceans can be closed by the same event. What’s more, local events like a gigantic port fire in Dalian or a longshoreman strike in California can have knock-on effects that reverberate throughout the globe. At the same time, Pastor contended that we may have just experienced an unprecedented period of stability that may, in fact, be ending, bringing more geopolitical risk.
Optomec has recorded more than 10 million turbine blade refurbishments with its metal 3D printing technology after conducting a recent customer survey.
The company says it now has more than 100 customer installations of its metal 3D printing systems specifically for gas turbine components repair, with installations made at leading gas turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in the aviation and energy markets, such as GE, as well as many third-party maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) shops.
At these companies, Optomec has installed its LENS brand Metal Additive 3D printers and Huffman brand 5-axis Laser Cladders, both based on Directed Energy Deposition (DED) technology. Customers are said to value Optomec’s proficiencies in adaptvie control software, controlled inert atmosphere processing for superior metallurgy, turn-key repair process recipes and automation solutions that facilitate higher throughput batch processing.
UK-based global major aerospace and defence group BAE Systems (BAES) has reported how the latest technologies are being used to drive forward, with unprecedented speed, Britain’s next-generation combat air system programme. Known as Tempest, this project is really benefitting from and making full use of digital twinning and three-dimensional (3D) printing (also known as additive manufacturing) technologies.
Digital twinning involves creating, in a computer system, an exact but virtual duplicate of a real-world entity and of all its systems, subsystems and components. Except that the real-world entity does not actually have to exist yet, as is the case with Tempest. The virtual duplicate can then be subjected to all sorts of simulated tests and evaluations, accelerating the design process while reducing costs.
In a recent webinar, Chris Billings, the co-founder of Duncan Machine Products (DMP), which is a partner with my company, shared a parable that cut straight to a hurdle faced by people in their everyday lives and teams within businesses, both small and large. The story gives body to a nebulous force that holds us back, keeps us from advancing and dooms us to achieve the same results.
The often unrecognized force is a strong headwind at best, and a brick wall at worst, when change offers advantages. In simple terms, this obstacle is tradition.
Chris shared the “Grandma’s Ham” story to illustrate the paradigm he instills in his precision machine shop. Paraphrasing Zig Ziglar’s words from his book See You at the Top, Chris illustrated the human aspect of the challenge to change, to innovate, to do things differently.
By now, most of us in the manufacturing world are familiar with the steady stream of news describing organizations, large and small, providing medical equipment using 3D printers. Face masks, face shields, swabs, and parts for ventilators are the most common—and needed—as the frontline medical community struggles to heal patients while protecting themselves. What could be simpler than to create a design, prep the data, ship it to a printer and send the finished part to a happy user or manufacturer?
It is not as simple as it sounds.
“There are literally hundreds of 3D printing designs to support the current COVID-19 response. Some work, others don’t. Some look great but do not work,” explained Dr. Jenny Chen, M.D., founder and CEO of 3DHEALS, a company focusing on education and industrial research in bioprinting, regenerative medicine, and healthcare applications using 3D printing. She was a moderator for a webinar panel titled “3D Printing Design for COVID-19,” presented April 22.
Oil company X had problems this spring. It was time for field maintenance, but company X couldn’t go ahead with it because it needed spare parts that weren’t coming anytime soon. Coronavirus-prompted lockdowns were breaking down international supply chains. Refinery Y had the same problem. It was maintenance time, and maintenance could not begin because of that same disruption to the supply chain. Refinery Y had to delay its maintenance, risking outages.
The problems of X and Y are very real and also dangerous. They also reveal one of the less pleasant aspects of the globalized economy: an overdependence on long international supply chains. But there is an alternative to these long supply chains: additive manufacturing or 3D printing.
3D printing is coming to the aid of health workers as well as the masses in providing essential items like masks and face shields.
Since its inception in the Eighties, 3D printing has found applicability in many industries. The latest is essential products. At a time when Covid-19 has brought the world to its knees, with many people struggling for essential items like masks, face shields, etc (which are in short supply), 3D printing has come to the rescue, helping create such products to aid people.
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly-sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object. The advantage of 3D printing is that it enables one to produce complex shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods. It has been used in a diverse range of industries, including consumer products, dentistry, prosthetics, among others.
Since the beginning of this year, the COVID-19 outbreak has demonstrated the fragility of global supply chains that provide life-saving equipment including ventilators, masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical facilities around the world.
3D printing has long emphasized its power to decentralize global manufacturing by manufacturing locally, but the material with which it operates is still beholden to the global supply chain.
The pro-decentralization argument in favor of additive manufacturing systems generally goes something like this: global supply chains require huge amounts of transportation. Since additive manufacturing systems 3D print products on site without expensive tooling from a 3D design file, the cost of shipping and production is reduced. CAD files are easy to reverse engineer and easy to redesign, greatly reducing time-to-market as well. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, this argument was not airtight by any means. The cost of producing certain non-essential and essential goods (including medical supplies) was still cheaper by traditional methods like injection molding and transcontinental shipping.
John Dogru, CEO of 3DPrinterOS, spoke to MPN’s editor Laura Hughes about the pivotal role of 3D printing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your organisation?
We have developed the world’s first operating system for 3D printing – 3DPrinterOS. Just like Android or Microsoft Dos solved the platform operating systems problems of the early PC and phone days, we have one platform that makes it easy to run, manage, 3D print, and run 3D printing at scale – regardless of who the manufacturer of the 3D printer is.
3D printing has many disparate systems, which we unite under one platform. Each 3D printer usually comes with its own software, and integrating all these brands onto one network is currently a nightmare for customers. This is why we developed an operating system that allows our customers to easily operate all their 3D printers and allows designers to easily print through a web browser. 3DPrinterOS’s customers run some of the largest 3D print farms in the world, allowing them to produce parts at low cost and at scale. We believe we’ve made it so easy, an eight year old could use it.
How are you helping with the Covid-19 pandemic?
We gave access to our network of over 35,000+ printers, and allowed our customers to share their 3D printers with anyone in the world to produce local face shields and masks needed in hospitals and local communities.