TWI Ltd is leading a new project that looks set to push the boundaries of additive manufacturing to allow for the printing of larger metallic components such as aircraft landing gear.
As a process, additive manufacturing has traditionally been held back by size, with components tending to be small additional components rather than large primary components and structures.
However, this is set to change as TWI and partners, including a number of prominent universities and Airbus, look to use additive manufacturing to build mission-critical, structural, primary elements such as turbine blades.
This involves moving away from powder-bed techniques and towards electron beam and other processes to deposit material for large-scale aerospace components including landing gear parts, wing rib components or important engine pieces.
Not only will this offer cost-cutting savings due to a reduction in material wastage, but it has also been shown to allow for faster production times using fewer parts.
To create these larger-scale components, the project is building new additive manufacturing machines that are able to work in sizes never seen before.
OAAM project manager, Tom Pinto explained, “The scale of the machines that we are producing is far greater than what we have seen in the past. This is a very exciting project which will provide access to equipment that is at the forefront of what’s being developed. None of these machines exists. There are no blueprints for them.”
The project, which is supported by Innovate UK (ref: 113164), commenced on the 1 January 2018 and will run for three years.
Photo Credit: Copyright Airbus