Aerospace giant Safran is bringing all of its additive manufacturing activities under one roof at a new site called the Safran Additive Manufacturing Campus. Construction of this Factory of the Future began in March and is on track to host as many as 50 production-grade 3D printers working with metallic powder or other feedstock, melted by a laser beam or other means.
To an aerospace pioneer like Safran, this production revolution affords many advantages in terms of enabling new designs, greater flexibility, weight and material savings. Even for Safran, accesso to internal metal 3D printing capabilities also means a chance to break the monopoly and its dependency on forging and casting companies, with the ability to craft complex parts more affordably than by machining. As well as producing parts that would otherwise be impossible to make using conventional technologies.
Accelerating and optimizing to add value
Safran is now seeking to further exploit the potential of additive manufacturing, an area it has been working on for nearly 20 years. Today, AM technology has reached maturity and some firms are beginning to employ it to make production parts. But to accelerate the process, every step involved had to be brought under one roof, from design and development to engineering and fabrication.
This is what inspired the creation of the Safran Additive Manufacturing Campus, a dedicated new entity. “AM involves so much more than just 3D printing,” explains François-Xavier Foubert, Safran Additive Manufacturing Campus CEO. “A lot of the value it adds lies in design and finishing. To make a leap forward in production rates and competitiveness, we need to optimize the entire process and bring together functions previously housed in separate facilities.”
A modern, eco-friendly facility
The new campus is set to open its doors at Le Haillan, near the Safran Ceramics site. Covering some 12,500 square meters (135,000 sq ft) of floor space, it will house research, design, development, engineering and production activities, as well as support functions. The factory will have up to 50 3D printers capable of handling a range of materials (aluminum, titanium, nickel-based alloys and polymers) to make different parts (vanes, structures, cases, equipment, etc.).
“The digital dimension will also be omnipresent,” says François-Xavier Foubert, “because AM is based on an integrated digital production system, from design to fabrication.” Last but not least, the line will be classified as “low-carbon” and powered exclusively by electricity or waste heat recovery.
Ultimately, the campus plans to have some 200 employees working in an environment tailored to additive manufacturing. There are a number of positions to fill, in research and technology, production and many other areas. “AM calls for new know-how, notably in 3D printing line design and control,” stresses François-Xavier Foubert. “We’re going to set up a training facility to support upskilling of employees who join us, as well as those working in AM Group-wide. We’re also forging partnerships with engineering schools to train tomorrow’s specialists.”
Construction got underway mid-April and is scheduled to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2021.