Aerospace Additive ManufacturingCase Studies

IDEC cuts composite molding costs by 67% with Stratasys 3D printing

The Spanish company leveraged AM and ULTEM 1010 resin to produce an aerospace preform tool

If there’s one thing that has become clear in the recent evolution of additive manufacturing technologies is that they will not replace traditional manufacturing processes. Instead, they will complement and, in many cases, enhance them. Stratasys is showcasing this reality at JEC World, where it revealed how Spanish composite solutions company IDEC has leveraged AM to cut the time, cost and material waste associated with composite molding processes.

IDEC, a composites company that specializes in aerospace applications, used Stratasys’ F900 Production System 3D printer to achieve the aforementioned efficiency objectives in a government-funded project. The project was organized to investigate the potential of Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) technology and involved testing a new composite material and its molding process to produce a curved aircraft wing.

Working in collaboration with advanced prototyping company Wehl & Partner, IDEC used 3D printing to produce a preform tool made from a high-temperature and pressure-resistant material (ULTEM 1010 resin). The polymer preform was designed to replace aluminum in a tooling application that required an electric current.

Typically, IDEC’s preform tools are made from aluminum or epoxy resin, which facilitate the composite lay-up process into the mold and accelerate the curing process. Using this method, the composite fiber is laid on top of the preform and the tool is heated to take the shape of the mold.

IDEC Stratasys preform tool
Preform tool produced with the Stratasys F900 Production System

In this particular case, however, the composite material was to be heated using an electric current, which made a conductive aluminum preform impossible to use, as it would prevent the current from effectively going through the composite fibers. The more traditional epoxy resin preforms were also unusable as they did not have the necessary resistance or stability to withstand temperatures exceeding 140°C.

Wehl & Partner used its in-house Stratasys F900 Production System 3D printer to produce the large-scale preform tool from ULTEM 1010 resin—a non-conductive material with excellent chemical, heat and pressure resistance.

“This project required high temperatures of between 150°C and 180°C to heat the fabrics directly, which made the Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing and the use of ULTEM 1010 resin, in particular, the perfect choice,” said Diego Calderón, Structural Analysis Manager at IDEC. “Although there are epoxy resins resistant to such high temperatures, these are very expensive, and would not have been financially viable.”

The integration of additive manufacturing at this stage in the production process enabled IDEC to achieve a massive time reduction: while the preform tool production process would have traditionally taken about a month, the timeframe was reduced to just 60 hours.

IDEC Stratasys preform tool
The final curved aircraft wing made from a composite material

“Stratasys additive manufacturing enabled us to produce the preform tool in just 60 hours,” said Calderón. “With CNC machining, it would have taken at least four weeks to produce this type of part. Indeed, not only did we slash the production lead-time on the preform tool, but we also expedited the whole composite molding process.

“In fact, with ULTEM 1010 resin, we reduced the composite heating stage from one hour to only ten minutes by flowing the electrical current directly through composite fabrics. This would simply not have been possible without Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing.”

Thanks to the dramatic time savings and the 3D printing process, IDEC was also able to cut its costs by 67% compared to the cost of CNC machining the aluminum preform.

Ultimately, the use of Stratasys’ 3D printing and ULTEM 1010 resin enabled IDEC to produce a preform tool with the desired mechanical properties for the RTM process. The 3D printed preform is reportedly strong enough to be used for at least 25 cycles, making it superior to epoxy preforms and those made using other 3D printing materials.

Tags

Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault moved from her home of Montreal, Canada to the Netherlands in 2014 to pursue a master’s degree in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. It was during her time in Amsterdam that she became acquainted with 3D printing technology and began writing for a local additive manufacturing news platform. Now based in France, Tess has over two and a half years experience writing, editing and publishing additive manufacturing content with a particular interest in women working within the industry. She is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM industry.

Related Articles

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Privacy Settings saved!
Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

In order to use this website we use the following technically required cookies
  • PHPSESSID
  • wordpress_test_cookie
  • wordpress_logged_in_
  • wordpress_sec

Decline all Services
Accept all Services
Close
Close

STAY AHEAD

OF THE CURVE

Join industry leaders and receive the latest insights on what really matters in AM!

This information will never be shared with 3rd parties

I’ve read and accept the privacy policy.*

WELCOME ON BOARD!