Additive manufacturing grows in the aerospace industry

  • 27-Sep-2013 11:50 EDT

Additive manufacturing technology being developed by GKN Aerospace creates complex metallic shapes that reduce material waste, save weight, are extremely strong, and show the way forward for future exploitation in aerospace component manufacture.

The pace of the metallics revival is quickening. The re-emergence of metallic solutions as alternatives to future wing structures, for example, is an area that is being actively developed by GKN Aerospace, a global Tier 1 supplier that has a very sizable stake in both metallic and composite structural manufacturing for all the major aerospace constructors.

The company believes that additive manufacturing (AM) presents a massive opportunity to create complex shapes, some of which would be impossible to manufacture using conventional methods, with higher functionality and different materials.

Using AM techniques, materials can be fused to form objects from 3-D models, building up structures iteratively instead of taking forgings and then machining material away. AM can produce highly complicated near-net-shape geometries with a good surface finish and, by almost eliminating the machining process, can make great savings in cost and carbon emissions.

GKN has invested heavily in exploring many different associated technologies but is presently focusing on processes such as electron beam melting, selective laser melting, and direct metal deposition techniques. It believes the potential for advanced welding and joining processes, such as laser welding, linear friction welding (LFW), and friction stir welding, is very applicable for future wing structures.

Laser welding techniques developed by GKN have been used on the European Ariane rocket nozzle and are now being applied to critical engine structures on the latest Rolls-Royce Trent XWB. They also are being studied for new aerostructures applications. LFW joins two items of material by rubbing them together until the surface gets hot enough to become plastic. A load then forces them together forming the joint. The technique can form near-net-shape engineered blanks, considerably reducing build costs. This has been developed to reduce the amount of waste material that can emerge from a forging (up to 90%).

The company is also looking closely at using LFW with titanium as well as dissimilar materials and alloys. It believes friction stir welding could replace today’s bolted and riveted metallic joints with large panels. This solid-state jointing process forces together parts under load with a rotating tool, heating and stirring the plasticized metal to bond the components.

The benefits are many and include reducing component weight, improving fatigue performance, reducing the parts count, lowering design and assembly costs, and making maintenance easier.

Little wonder then that at the front line of aerospace structural manufacturing, metallics are well positioned for a significant comeback.

HTML for Linking to Page
Page URL
Rate It
4.60 Avg. Rating

Read More Articles On

Researchers from Iowa State University are expanding fundamental materials studies into research and development of new, all-solid-state technology for batteries.
Researchers from Purdue University are studying the fundamental mechanisms behind a method that uses electrical fields to enhance ceramics-sintering processing, which could aid R&D of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells. The research also could shed light on a phenomenon called electromigration, which can affect the performance of electronic devices.
NRL scientists have demonstrated metallic spin filtering at room temperature using ferromagnet-graphene-ferromagnet thin film junction devices.
Industrial aluminum slabs are typically produced by blending small amounts of copper or manganese in a reservoir of molten aluminum that is rapidly cooled, a process known as direct-chill casting. Variations in the way these elements solidify can yield uneven results that weaken the final product.

Related Items

Technical Paper / Journal Article
Training / Education
Training / Education