Airbus APWorks Partners with Altair to Advance Metal 3D Printing Adoption
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on June 20, 2016 |

The Light Rider motorcycle from Airbus Group subsidiary APWorks is difficult to forget. Weighing only 35 kg, the electric bike demonstrates new design techniques only possible with 3D printing, resulting in an overall 30 percent reduction in weight.

With the success of the Light Rider motorcycle, APWorks has decided to further its collaboration with its software partner on the project, Altair. Through a nonexclusive partnership between the Airbus subsidiary and the engineering software company, APWorks and Altair will offer joint consulting around metal 3D printing, transfer knowledge around the technology to customers, and advance Altair’s software as it relates to 3D printing.

Altair’s engineering software will be utilized to create unique 3D-printed designs. (Image courtesy of APWorks.)
Altair’s engineering software will be utilized to create unique 3D-printed designs. (Image courtesy of APWorks.)

Altair and APWorks will work with companies to discover methods for implementing 3D printing at various levels. Services will include finding potential 3D printing applications within a business, redesigning components for additive manufacturing, fabrication and testing of items from the prototype stage up through serial production, as well as determining how products may be improved with 3D printing, cost analysis and building business cases for the use of 3D printing. Once the partners have performed these initial services, Altair and APWorks will transfer knowledge to customers to enable the use of 3D printing.

The Light Rider motorcycle was designed using Altair OptiStruct software and 3D printed by APWorks. (Image courtesy of APWorks.)
The Light Rider motorcycle was designed using Altair OptiStruct software and 3D printed by APWorks. (Image courtesy of APWorks.)

At the same time, Altair’s software will be improved for metal 3D printing applications, ultimately allowing for a complete simulation-driven design process for metal parts. Such simulation will be increasingly necessary as the technology is adopted by mainstream manufacturers accustomed to designing for traditional production techniques. 

Pietro Cervellera, managing director at Altair Engineering, spoke to the benefits that the partnership would bring his company’s software. “I am very happy about this agreement,” Cervellera said. “At Altair we have always believed that the place for simulation and optimization is right at the concept phase of the development process. A simulation-driven design process can help designers and engineers generate better design ideas faster and inject innovation into products. APWorks has fully embraced this philosophy as demonstrated by the Light Rider. The bionic frame of this new motorbike APWorks developed has been inspired by nature, generated with OptiStruct’s topology optimization technology, and then printed.”

“This partnership will help us to support our customers even better,” Joachim Zettler, managing director of Airbus APWorks GmbH, added. “Our know-how in additive manufacturing and Altair’s expertise in simulation-driven design are a perfect combination to help customers truly benefit from the advantages of additive manufacturing. In our Light Rider project, topology optimization and the advances in additive layer manufacturing have allowed us to realize the bionic design we had in mind for the motorcycle, without having to make any major changes. This led to the revolutionary and lightweight design we envisioned for this project.”

The partnership signals several developments occurring within 3D printing and mainstream manufacturing. Improved simulation software will be necessary to designing for additive manufacturing, as it will enable engineers to understand the performance improvements possible with 3D printing, ushering in a new era of topologically optimized, biologically inspired objects. Through consulting from Airbus’ 3D printing subsidiary, manufacturers already well acquainted with the defense leader will be more likely to use the technology in the future. 

While it may seem like a small bit of news, this new consultancy could play an essential role in pushing 3D printing into the mainstream manufacturing supply chain, while also allowing Airbus to act as a gatekeeper to the technology. 

Recommended For You