I’ve spent 30 years optimizing materials for use in aerospace and automotive applications, looking at how we design, make and use them. My latest research focuses on the additive manufacturing (AM) of alloys for use in aerospace applications. We’ve received a £2.6 million (US$3.2 million) grant for the next ten years which will enable us to develop AM alloys for industrial applications. We’re using one of the world’s most advanced tools to help investigate the challenges associated with AM alloys – Diamond Light Source the UK’s National synchrotron science facility at Harwell near Oxford. The synchrotron lets us see inside the alloys as the AM machine makes components.
The synchrotron emits electrons at the speed of light and bends them using electromagnetics to create a continuous beam of light at wavelengths from near infrared to hard x-rays. At the point where the beam of electrons bends it gives us a flux of light up to 10 million times brighter than the sun.
The use of 3D printing is becoming more common in the US Air Force’s supply chain for its fifth-generation aircraft. In December 2018, a metallic 3D printed part was installed by 574th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers on an operational F-22 Raptor during depot maintenance at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
Robert Lewin, 574th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) director said, “One of the most difficult things to overcome in the F-22 community, because of the small fleet size, is the availability of additional parts to support the aircraft.”
The use of 3D printing is growing mainly because it gives maintainers the ability to acquire replacement parts on short notice without minimum order quantities. This not only saves money, but also reduces the time the aircraft is in maintenance.
“The competitiveness of 3D printing relies heavily on the capability of machine users to recycle their powders.”
A new way of testing the quality of 3D printing powders has been developed by The National Research Council of Canada in collaboration with AP&C, a GE Additive company.
Using x-ray micro-computed tomography and 3D imaging analysis, very low concentrations of foreign particles can be detected in situations where cross contamination is a concern.
Each individual particle is visualised, with their size, brightness and concentration being measured. The partners say their method will lead to powdered materials being safer, cleaner, and able to produce stronger, more reliable components and believe the process will be particularly helpful in the qualification of recycled materials.
Gas turbines are complex components to manufacture, but additive manufacturing has been successfully utilized to accelerate design cycle times, reduce development test times, provide better test data and reduce the overall time to the release of the final component. It also allows for testing to be performed earlier, as early as the concept or preliminary design phases. This means that there is less likelihood that the entire component will have to be redesigned, as problem areas can be detected and eliminated early.
In a recent case study, a Siemens Energy SGT-A05 industrial gas turbine engine line was manufactured, and additive manufacturing was used for aerodynamic development testing within the preliminary design phase for boundary condition definition of new compressor static flow path components.
X-rays reveal more about 3D-printed metal parts as they are being made, and how to improve them
Metal 3D printing could revolutionize manufacturing, but concerns over part quality and certification has kept many industries from jumping into the technology with both feet. From their perspective, the quality and certificate are critical, and essential for parts destined for automotive and aerospace applications.
To improve metal 3D-printed parts, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are examining the complex mechanisms that drive defects and limit part quality. They have also teamed with scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Ames Laboratory to better understand 3D printing, looking into what leads to defects and how those flaws might be avoided.
The application of 3D printing to the space industry will receive a boost with the opening of a new ‘one stop shop’ based at the UK’s Manufacturing Technology Center (MTC) in Coventry.
The Additive Manufacturing Benchmarking Center (AMBC) will be established by the European Space Agency (ESA) and managed by the MTC. When 3D Printing Industry visited the MTC earlier this year for the UK Intelligent Engineering forum we saw first hand some of the advanced work conducted.
The objective with the AMBC is to draw on the world-leading resources and pool of knowledge available at the MTC to assess the use of 3D printing for ESA high-tech projects. Using the state-of-the-art 3D printing capabilities at the MTC, prototypes for a range of ESA projects will be produced, assessed and the subsequent results disseminated to a wider audience.