GKN Aerospace has announced the commissioning of a second additive manufacturing cell at the U.S Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The cell (Cell 2) is expected to be the world’s largest pilot production cell utilizing laser metal deposition with wire (LMD-w) processes. The announcement, made at the Paris Air Show, will enable GKN Aerospace to further its additive manufacturing research and development for large-scale structural aircraft components.
Housed at ORNL, Cell 2 is a pilot production cell that aims to industrialize the LMD-w process for structural aircraft parts. The AM cell will include a number of features, including a 20KW laser, 8-axis motion, a large inert environment, 52 x 32 inch maximum substrate size and two-sided deposition. Cell 2 will be leveraged by GKN Aerospace for a number of applications, such as product development, low-rate initial production and the transition of technology development into production solutions.
“We are proud to introduce the next step in our additive manufacturing research as we continue to push the boundaries of this transformative technology,” said Mike McCann, CEO of GKN Aerospace’s Aerostructures North America. “We believe this to be the largest laser metal deposition with wire (LMD-w) pilot production cell in the world. With this, we will target large scale aerostructure components with a focus on dramatic improvements in buy-to-fly and cost reductions over plate and forgings.”
GKN Aerospace has been working with LMD-w additive manufacturing technology for over a decade. The journey began at its aero-engine systems business in Sweden, and was expanded significantly in 2017 when GKN Aerospace signed a $17.8 million research agreement with ORNL to explore LMD-w for the production of large-scale aerostructure parts.
This agreement was accompanied by the opening of the company’s first prototype cell at ONRL which has since played an important role in transitioning technology from GKN Aerospace engines to aerostructure applications. Cell 1 also enabled GKN and ORNL to enhance closed-loop controls for the process. The new Cell 2 will reportedly allow GKN Aerospace to accelerate this ongoing work in the U.S.
“Our research collaboration with GKN Aerospace demonstrates the rapid progress that can be made when industry and the national labs work hand in hand,” commented Moe Khaleel, associate laboratory director for Energy and Environmental Sciences at ORNL. “We are pleased to see our relationship with GKN expand, and look forward to continued technological innovation in our mission to translate science into solutions for advanced manufacturing.”
GKN Aerospace is well into its additive manufacturing journey, as the company currently has numerous 3D printed components flying on seven major platforms, including the commercial, military, rotorcraft, business jets and space markets.