Arconic and Airbus have reached a multi-year cooperative research agreement to advance metal 3D printing for aircraft manufacturing. The companies will develop customized processes and parameters to produce and qualify large, structural 3D printed components, such as pylon spars and rib structures, up to approximately 1m (3ft) in length. The deal combines Arconic’s expertise in metal additive manufacturing and metallurgy with Airbus’s design and qualification capabilities, building on its experience with regulatory agencies for certification.
“This agreement combines the expertise of two of the world’s top aerospace additive manufacturing companies to push the boundaries of 3D printing for aircraft production,” said Eric Roegner, executive vice president and group president, Arconic Engineered Products and Solutions and Arconic Defense. “Additive manufacturing promises a world where lighter, more complex aerospace parts are produced cheaper and faster. We’re joining forces to make that potential a reality in a bigger way than ever before.”
Under this agreement, Arconic will use electron beam high deposition rate technology to 3D print parts. This technology is suited to produce larger aerospace components because it prints them up to one hundred times faster than technologies used for smaller, more intricate parts.
In addition, Arconic will demonstrate the benefits of its proprietary Ampliforge process, which combines traditional and additive manufacturing. The Ampliforge process treats a near complete 3D printed part using an advanced manufacturing process, such as forging, which enhances the properties of 3D printed parts – increasing toughness, fatigue, and strength versus parts made solely by additive manufacturing – and reduces material input and production lead times.
Arconic will draw on additive and advanced manufacturing capabilities at its facilities in Cleveland, Ohio, and at the Arconic Technology Center outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Last September, Airbus announced a 3D printing breakthrough involving a smaller component equipping the airframe – a 3D printed titanium bracket installed on a series production Airbus commercial aircraft, the A350 XWB. This achievement is paving the way for Airbus to design 3D printed parts in the future that are even more complex and lighter weight. Arconic is producing these titanium brackets using laser powder bed technologies at its additive manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas.
Arconic announced three agreements with Airbus in 2016. Under those deals, Arconic agreed to 3D print titanium and nickel airframe components, such as fuselage and engine pylon components, made using laser and electron beam powder bed processes. Those agreements established Arconic as an innovation partner to Airbus in the fast-growing metal 3D printing space.