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Design4AM: ESA partners with Siemens and Sonaca to develop AM space applications

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The European Space Agency (ESA) announced this week that it has chosen Siemens Digital Industries Software to develop aerospace design applications for metal additive manufacturing. The collaboration, to be carried out through the two-year Design4AM project, will leverage Siemens’ end-to-end software solution for industrial AM and be supported by Sonaca, a specialist in aerospace structures.

Overall, the Design4AM project aims to validate a process for using Siemens’ AM software to design and produce optimized, lightweight structural parts for space applications, including fittings (structurally bonded to CFRP panel), supports and bipods for improved performance and cost.

Siemens’ software solution for industrial AM brings together a number of elements that make it suitable for developing space-related applications for metal 3D printing, including generative engineering, topology optimization, predictive analysis, process simulation, build preparation and production execution. As a partner of Siemens and an expert in aerospace structures,, Sonaca will help to enhance the software for space applications. The Design4AM project will also be supported by funding from ESA and the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (Belspo).

Siemens Sonaca ESA Design4AM

“The Siemens and Sonaca partnership combines the power of a leading additive manufacturing software solution with the expertise from a leading aerospace manufacturer,” commented Pedro Romero Fernandez, Sonaca General Manager Space BU. “With our deep aerospace knowledge and Siemens’ software technologies such as generative design, automated topology optimization and additive manufacturing process simulation, engineers will be able to explore hundreds of design options in a fraction of the normal time, then virtually test them against a variety of physical conditions to arrive at the best design solution for their performance requirements that 3D print correctly the first time.”

Additive manufacturing is becoming an increasingly important part of the evolution of the space industry, as it enables companies to design and produce components that meet the structural requirements of the sector while also reducing weight dramatically compared to traditional production methods. When launching rockets and cargo into space, weight is a critical consideration, as a single pound of payload can cost $10,000 in launch costs. Therefore, the ability to lightweight parts with 3D printing can help to dramatically reduce launch costs.

“Additive manufacturing can help ESA reshape everything for optimal performance at reduced cost, in comparison to traditional manufacturing methods that require multiple steps, tools, and treatments to achieve the desired outcome,” explained Didier Granville, RTD projects Manager for Siemens in Liège. “Working with Sonaca, we will be able to help ESA take advantage of additive manufacturing to deliver high-performance structures capable of withstanding the extreme forces that occur during space satellite launches.”

The Design4AM project will bring together various elements, including Siemens’ Digital Innovation Platform and Sonaca’s expertise in space applications, manufacturing features, material and process and testing and numerical methods for validating the chain. The project will use Siemens’ NX and Simcenter software programs to explore a range of design concepts in an automated closed-loop process that emphasizes engineering performance, manufacturing process and operation cost requirements.

These Siemens software tools enable users to account for manufacturing design constraints, such as thermo-mechanical part distortion, structural part orientation in the build chamber and support structure designing. Ultimately, the software solution can help speed up the design and optimization process for space applications.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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