Reducing the Weight of Aerospace Parts Through Additive Manufacturing
The rise of additive manufacturing has been rapid in recent years, with a wealth of benefits attributed to a process which you may know better as 3D printing.
Some of the advantages it offers over alternative manufacturing techniques include less waste, higher efficiency and the flexibility of being able to produce complex components using a single piece of equipment in almost any location.
The aerospace applications of additive manufacturing are especially relevant because of the weight-reduction capabilities it brings to the table. Here is a look at how lighter parts can be produced through this process and how these are being used across the industry.
A layered approach
In the past, producing aerospace parts was necessarily limited to a reliance on machining components from single pieces of material. This meant that there was always an issue associated with component weight, and no means of overcoming this without also making compromises in other areas, such as structural strength.
Additive manufacturing using fiber laser equipment embraces a fresh angle on constructing aerospace parts by building them layer by layer, with a fiber laser being used to set powdered metal materials in place according to a digital design.
If engineers want to make a component that is partly or entirely hollow, this is therefore achievable thanks to the way that fiber laser additive manufacturing operates.
Aerospace is an industry in which every gram of weight that is added to a craft makes a big cumulative difference to the cost of running it, not just for individual flights but also cumulatively over the lifespan of the entire assembly.
Even with the per-kilo costs of launches falling dramatically in the past two decades, it can still mean a difference of tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds to the budget of a project. Using additive manufacturing to make hollow parts is therefore clearly desirable.
Another aspect of additive manufacturing using fiber lasers which is relevant to reducing the weight of aerospace parts is the fact that this process can be conducted using a number of different metal materials.
Metals like stainless steel, titanium, gold and silver can all be manipulated into any form through 3D printing.
This means that materials which might previously have been incapable of being used to make aerospace components because they were too fragile to undergo the necessary manufacturing processes can now be considered as a possibility in place of heavier counterparts.
As additive manufacturing is being developed and improved upon all the time, you can expect that its influence over aerospace part production will continue to grow and further weight savings will be available to cut costs and improve efficiency.
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