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STELIA Aerospace 3D prints largest aircraft fuselage component

WAAM technology was used showing its potential for large format parts

In a world premiere for AM of large aircraft parts, French aerospace manufacturer STELIA Aerospace presented a demonstrator for metallic self-reinforced fuselage panels manufactured through a WAAM (Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing) 3D printing process, such as that recently introduced by French 3D printer manufacturer Prodways.

The project is the result of a partnership with Constellium, Centrale Nantes and CT Ingénierie, in the scope of the collaborative R & T project DEFACTO (DEveloppement de la Fabrication Additive pour Composant TOpologique), a demonstrator for metallic self-reinforced fuselage pannels, with stiffeners directly manufactured on the surface, through additive manufacturing.

“With this 3D additive manufacturing demonstrator, STELIA Aerospace aims to provide its customers with innovative designs on very large structural parts derived from new calculation methods (topological optimisation). Through its R&T department, and thanks to its partners, STELIA Aerospace is therefore preparing the future of aeronautics, with a view to develop technologies that are always more innovative and will directly impact our core business, aerostructures.” Cédric Gautier, CEO of STELIA Aerospace.

Click on the image to see the entire fuselage component 3D printed by STELIA

This new technology should, in the long term, eliminate the current added stiffeners, which are attached to the fuselage pannels with fixing screws and sometimes welding. This demonstrator, measuring 1 sq. meter, was manufactured by a robotic tool, through the deposit of aluminium wire merged by electric arc (WAAM – Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing). It presents a new disruptive design for pannel stiffeners, derived from the fuselage topological optimisation studies which have been carried out by STELIA Aerospace and CT Ingénierie since several years.

This new large dimension 3D print technology allows to envisage the manufacturing of such concepts in the future, thus freeing production from complex constraints due to the assembly of stiffeners. With support from Constellium and Ecole Centrale de Nantes, STELIA Aerospace is currently studying additive manufacturing, a disruptive technology aimed at a new approach of production, where material is added by deposit instead of being removed by machining.

The DEFACTO project, planned on a 2.5 yers basis, represents an important investment, co-financed (50/50) by the DGAC (French Directorate General for Civil Aviation) and the partners involved. It is part of a research strategy launched by STELIA Aerospace in 2014, about topological optimisation studies associated to 3D print demonstrators for elementary parts (such as fittings), large dimension parts (frames) and large sub-assemblies.

The benefits sought for are new designs, the integration of functions, less ecological impact through the use of less material, weight gains and less recurring manufacturing costs.

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