Arconic 3D prints part for Airbus production aircraft

Departments - 3D/Additive Manufacturing

De-powdering enclosure; PADT, Stratasys to open Colorado AM lab.

December 4, 2017

At Arconic’s additive manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, engineers 3D printed a titanium bracket for installation on a series production Airbus A350 XWB commercial aircraft. While airplane makers have been using 3D-printed parts for components inside the cabin for some time, equipping airframes with metal additively manufactured parts is new. By installing this bracket on a series production commercial airplane instead of a test airplane, Airbus is taking a step forward in qualification of more complex 3D-printed parts.

The bracket is part of Arconic’s three-agreement partnership with Airbus to produce titanium and nickel 3D-printed parts for Airbus A320 and A350 XWB aircraft. These agreements draw on Arconic’s additive manufacturing capabilities, including laser powder bed and electron beam processes.

Arconic and Airbus have installed this 3D-printed titanium bracket onto a series production Airbus A350 XWB.

Don Larsen, Arconic’s vice president of research and development and general manager of advanced manufacturing, tells Aerospace Manufacturing and Design the 3D printed part is a non-load-bearing component in the engine pylon. It’s made from Ti-6Al-4V titanium alloy using laser powder-bed technology, then machined. Larsen says Arconic’s proprietary customization of the machines and software allow qualifying the part to meet Airbus’ spec’.

“We work a lot with simulated parts to alter the print file so the right dimensions come out of the additive machine instead of printing by trial and error,” Larsen says.

It’s necessary to understand the material properties put into the software so it accurately predicts the printed dimensions. “That’s where Arconic’s intellectual property and knowledge come into play,” Larsen adds.

The part consistently passed mechanical, physical, and chemical validation tests to qualify for a certificate of compliance to earn its place on the airframe.

“This part is ultimately paving the way for other parts that we’ve already won and other parts in the future that will be much more critical to the aircraft structure than this non-load-bearing part,” Larsen says.

Addressing the progression of more-advanced additively manufactured parts, Larsen notes, “First the baby crawls, then it walks, then it runs. We start with something that’s familiar, that’s fairly straightforward, and it gets more difficult and more rigorous as you move to more load-bearing, then fracture-critical, then flight-critical components.”;

De-powdering enclosure

Inert’s upgraded PowerShield de-powdering enclosure with argon gas management system protects operators from unhealthy exposure to excess metal powders from printed parts during post processing. It prevents contamination of metal powder from oxygen, moisture, dust, or organic matter and reclaims metal powder for reuse.

PADT, Stratasys to open Colorado AM lab

Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies (PADT), a provider of numerical simulation, product development, and 3D printing solutions, is teaming with Stratasys Ltd. to open an additive manufacturing lab at the Metropolitan State University (MSU) in Denver, Colorado. The Lockheed Martin Additive Manufacturing Laboratory is dedicated to advancing use of 3D printing for composite tooling addressing complex design and manufacturing requirements. The lab’s Stratasys Fortus 900mc production 3D printers are funded through a grant from Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

Initially deployed at MSU Denver, the additive manufacturing curriculum will later become available for use by other academic institutions across the country. Additionally, PADT will work with MSU Denver, Lockheed Martin, and other users to build a Fortus 900mc Users Group within the Rocky Mountain region.;