Marshall Aerospace and Defence 3D-prints aerospace parts
The company is using Stratasys 3D printers for prototype and production parts using composites and other advanced materials.
Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (Cambridge, U.K.) is using advanced 3D printing from Stratasys (Eden Prairie, Minn., U.S.) to manufacture flight-ready parts using composites and other advanced materials for several of its military, civil and business aircraft.
Marshall says that it already has several pieces of 3D-printed ductwork flying on heavily modified aircraft, as well as holders for safety knives and switches for aircraft interiors. According to the company, 3D printing flight-approved parts on demand enables production of lighter parts than using traditional methods, significantly faster and at lower cost.
According to Chris Botting, materials, processes and additive manufacturing engineer at Marshall ADG, the ability to create accurate, repeatable and reliable 3D printed parts using aerospace-approved materials are key factors in achieving the performance requirements necessary for use within aircraft.
“When manufacturing on complex engineering programs, we need a method that can create an accurate, complex, functional and lightweight duct efficiently with minimal tooling costs — this is where 3D printing fits perfectly,” Botting says. “But we also need to ensure that the ducting work produced will be approved by the EASA for flight. As a result, we’re using the Stratasys Fortus 450mc FDM Printer and ULTEM 9085 resin — a tough, yet lightweight 3D printing material with high thermal and chemical resistance. This has been crucial to overcoming the stringent requirements of our industry, as we can now 3D-print parts with the desired flame, smoke and toxicity properties for use on aircraft interiors.”
The company is also utilizing its Fortus 450mc 3D printer, purchased from Stratasys UK and Ireland Platinum Partner SYS Systems, to build final parts on the ground. Marshall recently created a ducting adapter prototype for vital ground-running equipment essential for providing fresh air to cool the aircraft’s avionics. 3D printing this particular part helped Marshall transition from typically costly aluminum processes, the company says.
“Before committing to expensive aluminum machining, we used the Fortus 450mc to 3D print a prototype in ASA material,” says Botting. “It enabled us to create an accurate working prototype of a complex component. We were then able to demonstrate it had the potential to be 3D printed in Nylon 12 material as opposed to the more conventional method of machining from aluminum. The 3D printed duct led to a significant cost reduction compared to machining the part out of aluminum, as well as a 63% reduction in overall weight.”
The group is also using Stratasys 3D printers for a range of complex tooling applications, including drill jigs, masking templates, bonded fixtures and composite mold tooling. The team regularly produces customized, low-volume production tools within 24 hours of an engineer’s request. In fact, the company says it is driving use of 3D-printed thermoplastic tools to replace heavy metal tools, which it says will reduce the burden on the operator, as well as reduce cost and lead times on urgent operational tasks.
Will this affordable and versatile class of multiaxis manufacturing hardware and software drivers enable airframers to reduce costs and speed deliveries?
With patents proliferating and production applications emerging, 3D printing with continuous fiber reinforcement is poised for significant market growth.
New composite manufacturing technology for multimaterial, multifunctional composite structures.