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TRUMPF aerospace AM applications focus on cost saving for satellites and engine parts

The company's LMF and LMD processes used to cut weight and costs

At the Paris Air Show International Aerospace Exhibition, TRUMPF aerospace applications are focusing on how its additive manufacturing technologies can improve satellites and aircraft. As demands on satellites parts and performances increase, every kilogram that a rocket carries into space can cost several hundred thousand euros. At the same time, the rocket vehicles must be extremely stable in order to withstand the high forces needed at take-off.

“With more than 20 percent market share, aerospace is one of the most important additive manufacturing industry verticals. We are continually expanding our market share and helping to establish the processes as a key technology,” said Thomas Fehn, General Manager of TRUMPF Additive Manufacturing (AM), also responsible for Sales.

It is also important to reduce the weight of airplanes because it significantly reduces fuel consumption. This protects the environment and reduces costs. Additive technologies are perfect for the aerospace industry. The technologies enable components that are lightweight and stable at the same time. AM processes apply material only where it serves a purpose, while conventional methods such as milling or casting produce parts that are unoptimized and heavier even where they don’t need to be. Light metals such as aluminum or titanium can be processed using 3D printers with ease. In addition, the components can be constructed much more freely, because the limitations of classical methods do not apply.

Crucial technologies for TRUMPF aerospace

TRUMPF can provide the two most important AM processes for aerospace: Laser Metal Fusion (LMF) and Laser Metal Deposition (LMD). LMF, TRUMPF’s version of laser powder bed fusion, takes place completely inside the 3D printer, as the laser melts the powder to build a component layer by layer. The LMF technology is particularly suitable for complex components, such as for engines, combustion chambers or special parts in the aerospace industry.

In the LMD process, TRUMPF’s version of laser, powder-fed DED processes (also referred to as laser deposition welding), the laser beam builds up layers on the surface of a component. A nozzle supplies the metal powder. With LMD even very large components can be produced up quickly. Preferred applications include prototyping and repair of large components, such as gas turbines or compressor blades. “We are well positioned with LMD and LMF and can offer our customers in the aerospace industry the solution in 3D printing that best suits their application,” said Fehn.

Reducing satellite parts weight by up to 55%

TRUMPF aerospace
The Heinrich Hertz communications satellite

At the Paris Air Show, TRUMPF is showing real applications for additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry. On behalf of space company Tesat-Spacecom GmbH & Co.KG, TRUMPF printed a mount used for German communications satellite Heinrich Hertz, which is to test the space fairing capability of new communication technologies. Drives are attached to the bracket to regulate microwave filters.

In cooperation with CAE software company AMendate, it was possible to optimize the topology of the mount and reduce the weight by 55%. Instead of 164 grams, the holder weighs only 75 grams. “This shows by example how enormously we can use satellite technology to save weight through additive processes and thus gain payload,” explained Matthias Müller, Aerospace Industry Manager at TRUMPF Additive Manufacturing.

The experts printed the revised component with the TRUMPF TruPrint 3000 3D printer. Classic methods are unable to produce the new geometry. The optimized mount is not only lighter, but also more stable. It holds the same high forces at the start of the satellite and warps less. The Heinrich Hertz satellite mission is conducted by the DLR Space Agency on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and with the participation of the Federal Ministry of Defense.

Cost of engine parts reduced by three quarters

TRUMPF aerospace
An aerospace rake probe from Ramem

TRUMPF is also presenting an application for additive manufacturing in aviation with Spanish aerospace supplier Ramem. Together, the companies optimized a “rake” using 3D printing. Manufacturers use rakes in engine development when they want to determine the pressure and temperature of the drive. Such measurements are necessary to test the performance of the aircraft.

The rakes are mounted directly in the flow channel of the engines and exposed to extreme temperatures and high pressure. For a precise measurement result, high dimensional accuracy is paramount. Until now, production of the rakes was expensive and time-consuming: employees create the basic body on the milling machine. Then they have to manually insert six fine tubes, weld them and seal the component with a plate. If only one tube is not placed correctly, the component is rejected.

TRUMPF produced an optimized geometry of the rake using the TruPrint 1000 3D printer. As a result, the component can be manufactured much faster and the manufacturer requires about 80 percent less material. This amounts to total cost savings of 74 percent. “The result shows that 3D printing can save a lot of time, material and money in the aircraft industry,” said project manager Julia Moll from TRUMPF Additive Manufacturing

Repairing engine blades

Apèplications of TRUMPF’s LMD technology at the Paris Air Show. focus on an LMD-repaired high-pressure compacting blade, also known as the 3D Aeroboard, which is used in aircraft engines. These components must withstand extreme temperature differences during the flight. In addition, they are constantly in contact with dust and water. They get worn out especially at the edges and at the tips.

Aviation technicians have to continuously repair the blades, otherwise, the drive loses power. For this purpose, the LMD method is optimal. The material thickness of the blades is sometimes only 0.2 millimeters. Conventional methods quickly reach their limits. With LMD technology the energy dosage can be precisely controlled. The system supplies exactly the same material from which the component is made.

This process only takes a few minutes, depending on the application, and makes it easy to repair the blades several times. Thus, the cost of the component per engine overhaul significantly reduced. “With its low energy input, laser deposition welding is the ideal method for aerospace applications. We can use it to repair, coat, or build three-dimensional structures. This is not possible with conventional welding techniques,” concluded Oliver Müllerschön, Industry Manager Manufacturing Technologies at TRUMPF.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, I have built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, I spent 12 years in the United States, where I received my Bachelor of Arts undergraduate degree. As a journalist covering the tech industry - especially the videogame industry - for over 10 years, I began covering the AM industry specifically in 2013, as blogger. In 2016 I co-founded London-based 3D Printing Business Media Ltd. (now 3dpbm) which operates in marketing, editorial, and market analysis & consultancy services for the additive manufacturing industry. 3dpbm publishes 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies related to 3DP, and leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore. I am also a Senior Analyst for leading US-based firm SmarTech Analysis focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets.

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