Additive Manufacturing Accelerates Aerospace Design Validation and Tool Production
The Engineer posted on January 23, 2018 |
Dassault fuselage production. (Image courtesy of .)
Dassault Falcon 7X/8X - T5 rear fuselage production. (Image courtesy of Latécoère.)
French aircraft design and manufacturing group, Latécoère, is deploying Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing throughout its design and production process to accelerate design validation and tool production.

Latécoère–which services aerospace giants including Airbus, Bombardier and Dassault–is using a Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer for both rapid prototyping and production tooling. According to Simon Rieu, composite and additive manufacturing manager at Latécoère’s R&D and Innovation Center: “Additive manufacturing has integrated seamlessly into our design and production process, and has seen us enjoy improved lead-times, reduced costs and enhanced operational efficiency.”


3D Printing for Design Validation

Traditionally, the company uses CNC machining for rapid prototyping.

“We recently produced a 3D-printed prototype to verify the fit and function of a part for the interior lining of an aircraft door,” Rieu explained. “Previously, this would have been made from sheet metal – an often-time-consuming process. With our Fortus 450mc 3D Printer, we produced a fully-functional prototype in two days, reducing our lead times by a staggering 95 percent. Crucially this has accelerated our design validation process before committing to costly and time-consuming tooling.”

3D printed camera case prototype for the Airbus A380, produced on Stratasys' Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer in ULTEM 9085 material. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)
3D printed camera case prototype for the Airbus A380, produced on Stratasys' Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer in ULTEM 9085 material. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)
Latécoère recently 3D printed a prototype camera case for the Airbus A380 aircraft for design validation, with the camera’s internal parts housed inside. Without additive manufacturing, the team would have been forced to directly manufacture an aluminum camera case for testing, including potentially costly design iterations.

As an added benefit, the prototype is printed from ULTEM 9085 material, making it 50 percent lighter than its metal counterpart and enabling more efficient functional part testing.

 

Additive Manufacturing for Production Tooling

The company is also utilizing 3D printing for the on-demand manufacture of customized production tools. Latécoère reports that this has resulted in significant reductions in time and cost, as well as enhanced operator efficiency.

“Using metal sheet manufacturing, creating a tool can take up to six weeks,” said Rieu. “Now, we can 3D print a tool in just two days that’s 50 percent lighter using ULTEM 9085. With our 3D printer, we can also optimize the geometry of the tool to perfectly fit the part – making the operator’s job much easier. Not only has this accelerated our production process dramatically, but I also estimate that we’ve reduced our tool production costs by a massive 40 percent.”


Flight-Ready 3D-Printed Production Parts

Looking ahead, Latécoère’s long-term strategy is to 3D print final production parts for next generation aircraft. The company has already begun exploring the potential to utilize its Fortus 450mc to produce final interior aircraft parts with certification in mind.

3D printed tool used to install wiring in Airbus A380 camera case, produced using Stratasys' Fortus 450mc. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)
3D printed tool used to install wiring in Airbus A380 camera case, produced using Stratasys' Fortus 450mc. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)
Using FST-compliant ULTEM 9085, the team has 3D printed various air duct housing components with significant weight reductions and time savings compared to traditional production methods.

For more information, check out this feature article on Additive Manufacturing in the Aerospace Industry.

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