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Author Archives: Kyle Brengel

  1. 3D printing aerospace parts

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    This article provides an overview of the differences between additive and subtractive manufacturing, 3D printing technologies, 3D printing applications for aerospace and defense parts, and a look at how Primus utilizes titanium printing to support customers.   

    What is the difference between additive and subtractive manufacturing techniques? 

    Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is the process of creating an object, such as a critical satellite component, using material deposition and numerous post processing techniques. This is different than traditional subtractive manufacturing in one main way. Instead of taking a block of raw material and using lathes, mills, and CNC machines to remove material in a controlled manner, material is selectively added to a blank slate to build a component from the ground up. Subtractive manufacturing typically 

    3D Printing laser TI powder fusion

    uses cutting tools such as end mills, boring bars, or drill bits to remove matter from a block, bar, or slug of raw material. The tool (or the material if the machine in question is a lathe) is spun at a rapid rate and is ran through the material at computer programmed locations where stock needs to be removed. Through 3 and 5 axis machining, the work can be spun along various axes to remove material to form complex shapes. One alternative to subtractive manufacturing is 3D printing.  

    This seemingly new technology can be traced back to 1925. A patent was issued for the use of arc welding techniques to create sculptures and decorative articles by depositing welded beads of metal on top of one another to form baskets and other household items. 3D printing first found its use in manufacturing in 1982 when United Technologies Research Center filed a patent for a “Method for Fabricating Articles be Sequential Layer Deposition.” Initially, Additive Manufacturing was only used for rapid prototyping to develop a model for parts to be later created using subtractive methods. It wasn’t until the 2000’s that Additive Manufacturing began to achieved production-grade parts primarily for the medical implant industry. Since then, additive manufacturing has crossed over to the Aerospace and Defense supply chain for making high precision, low volume parts and components. 

    What are the key types of additive manufacturing / 3D printing? 

    • Stereolithography – This method utilizes liquid plastic to create 3D objects through layer-by-layer deposition. Liquid resign is collected in a vat with a clear bottom. UV light is used to trace a pattern in the vat and selectively cure the resin.  The object is dragged up by a platform to allow the part to grow from the base down [1]. This type of 3D printing is primarily used for rapid prototyping as it is too slow to produce plastic parts in a cost-effective manner.  
    • Fused Deposition Modeling – Fused Deposition Modeling feeds a thermoplastic filament into an extruder. This plastic is then deposited onto a plate to build a part layer-by-layer from the ground up. This is the most common type of 3D printing and is often seen in entry level printers. This method is also used for rapid prototyping and can be used along with Stereolithography to create negative molds for metal casting. 
    • Sheet Lamination– Sheet Lamination utilizes a cutting device (usually a laser) to slice through thin layers of material. These cuts are then deposited layer-by-layer and glued together to form parts. This strategy can be used with plastics, wood, and even metal to create prototypes and production level parts.  
    • Powder Bed Fusion– This strategy employs a laser or electron beam to weld or sinter layers of powdered metal together to from a part. Powder bed fusion is commonly employed by the Aerospace, Defense, and medical industries to create intricate, low volume production parts. The printer used by Primus Aerospace falls under this category. 

    What types of aerospace projects are best performed on a 3D printer? 

    • Prototype parts – Producing 3D printed parts requires very little setup, additional tooling or fixtures to create working parts for prototype or R&D applications. This allows design modifications to be verified with minimal effort. Engineers may 3D print a part for a prototype but later transition to precision machined parts as the program enters production phase.    
    • Complex designs – 3D printing allows designers to create parts that could not be produced with traditional subtractive manufacturing techniques.  While aerospace parts designers should not throw out the book on design for manufacturability (DFC), some applications do require designs that cannot be accomplished on a 5-axis CNC mill (such as integrated internal pathways and complex internal features).
    • Lightweight requirements – Additive manufacturing allows the incorporation of weight saving features and innovative designs that cannot be traditionally machined, such as complex lattice structures and intricate hollow structures. For example, aerospace engineers designing parts for a commercial satellite (where weight represents a high-payoff Value Engineering effort) can shed costly weight without sacrificing strength.  
    • Low production volumes  One drawback of 3D printing is its part production time. For a powder bed fusion system, builds take at least one day to print causing this technology to not be applicable for high production parts (yet).

    Additive Manufacturing at Primus Aerospace 

    Primus primarily uses a Velo3D Sapphire Metal AM Printer for additive manufacturing aerospace projectsThis machine is tailored to use powder bed fusion technologies to 3D Print space and satellite parts using a Ti 6Al-4V titanium alloy powder. 

    ThisThe Velo3D Titanium Printer  works by using a vacuum powered contactless recoater to deposit titanium powder over a build plate. The recoater dumps material over the plate, and then uses a vacuum to suck up any access metal an

     

    d ensure a consistent layer of powder. Two separate lasers sinter fuse the powder together in a predetermined pattern to methodically form a part from the base upFusion is the process of melting a two separate solid components and re-solidifying them together. This is done in layers that are slightly offset from one another to avoid empty space in the finished product. This ensures strength and reliability in precision aerospace parts. This is done on top of a build plate that sits on top of a piston, which lowers the plate to accommodate for each subsequent layer of titanium until the build is complete. The lasers and piston take instructions from Velo’s Flow software. This takes a CAD model of a part, slices it, and creates step by step instructions for the 3D printer to follow.  

    This machine has the capability to print material at low angles, parts with overhanging features, as well as internal passageways and cavities with little to no support structures. In turn, this decreases the need for post processing and allows primus to manufacture an extremely wide range of components. So far, we have used this machine to create one-piece parts with a high level of complexity, components with internal cooling passages, and thin-walled pressure vessels with an almost unattainable degree of precision.  

    Primus Aerospace supports aerospace, defense, and space manufacturers with build to print 3D printed titanium parts. Primus is able to combine this innovative 3D printing technology with other valued added services (such as finishing, grinding, or painting) and an aerospace AS9100 certified quality management system.

     

     

     

    By Josh Trujillo

    Sources 

    [1] 3D Printing | An Overview of 3D Printing Technologies (techpats.com) 

    [2] 3D Printed Lattice Structures and Generative Design • OpenFab PDX 

    [3] Velo3D launches its first metal Additive Manufacturing system (metal-am.com) 

    Images courtesy of Velo3D

  2. Aerospace waterjet cutting for parts production

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    The aerospace and defense supply chain produces highly engineered and tightly manufactured parts to support civilian and military applications.  Delivering complex aircraft, such as the F-35 advanced fighter or Orion space capsule, requires the transformation of raw materials into finished parts.  Aerospace waterjet cutting is one capability that contributes to this value chain.

     

    What is waterjet cutting?

    Cutting materials by waterjet utilizes a high-pressure nozzle to direct water and abrasive against a material to be cut.  The material sits in a ‘bath’ (also known as the waterjet table) where the sprayed water drains off into.  A high-pressure pump feeds a nozzle, that’s controlled by a PC-based controller, to blast water and abrasive through material.  Similar to a CNC mill or lathe, a programmer creates a repeatable, exact process on a computer and utilizes that program to make ultra-precise cuts with the cutting center.

    How long has waterjet cutting been around?

    Waterjet cutting was first invested in the 1930s, with low pressure systems capable of cutting paper.  By the 1960s, early waterjet units were capable of 100,000 PSI and could cut aerospace metal parts / shapes.  These processes were generally standardized by the 1970s for aerospace and defense part manufacturing.  Boeing was one of the first companies to adopt abrasive waterjet cutting for harder materials and deeper cuts.

    Why is waterjet cutting important to aerospace part production?

    Waterjet cutting is an important part of the aerospace supply chain because it provides a method to cut / rough intricate parts out of large bars of raw material.  This process significantly decreases the costly machining portion of part production, decreasing cost to both the manufacturer and customer.  Additionally, waterjet technology allows metals with high thermal conductivity (such as aluminum and streel) to be cut with minimal heat transfer.

    What can be cut with a water jet?

    Primus waterjet cutting center

    • Aluminum
    • Titanium
    • Stainless steel
    • Cast iron
    • Copper
    • Alloys
    • Glass

    What waterjet cutting equipment does Primus use?

    Primus Aerospace uses an Omax 120X JetMachining Center for its waterjet cutting needs.  This allows a cutting envelop of 20 feet long by 10 feet wide by 8 inches deep. Omax machines are known for their high precision and repeatability across a variety of materials.  The Omax 120X is a 5-axis waterjet cutting center.

    What advantages does waterjet cutting have over traditional machining?

    • No heat transfer – modern waterjet systems utilize cold water and do not create the same heat transfer profile as laser or plasma cutters
    • Capable of cutting from large bars / plates – waterjet systems can often handle large blocks of raw material to begin cutting roughed parts from. For example, Primus’s cutting center can handle blocks that are up to 200 sqf.
    • Minimizes wear on machine tools – roughing unique geometry parts for larger parts allows machine shops to decrease the amount of wear and tear on expensive machine tools. This allows the machine shop to focus on finishing operations, especially then the part contains difficult GD&T.
    • No tool wear – Waterjet systems use only high-pressure water and an abrasive additive to perform cutting, meaning there are no tools to wear out during the cutting process.
    • Capable of cutting variety of materials – Water-jet systems can cut a large variety of material types (see above) with minimal changes to the cutting center.
    • Precision cuts – the computer controlled cutting nozzle of modern cutting centers, such as those from CMS or Omax, enable accuracy down to ±0.0010″
    • Maximize yield from large blocks of material – When a skilled operator plans out parts to be cut from the raw material billet, minimal scrap material can be achieved through the use of planning software. The decreases the amount of material that is sent to the scrap yard and increases the yield of good parts.

    What materials does Primus generally cut? 

    As a contract parts manufacturer for the aerospace and defense industries, Primus Aerospace uses waterjet cutting to transform large blocks of raw material into roughed parts for further machining.  As part of the company’s support to commercial and government space programs, Primus uses it’s abrasive waterjet center to rough large blocks of titanium.

     

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