materialiseOf all the fields that have been impacted by the rise of 3D printing technology, none has been revolutionized quite like the aerospace industry. Industrial-grade additive manufacturing has enabled a number of space companies to create complex components that were impossible with traditional techniques, and has also helped reduce costs and turnaround times. From SpaceX launching off a rocket with 3D printed thrusters to NASA’s new initiative to use 3D printed ceramics in spacecraft production, this emerging technology has played a critical role in breaking the boundaries of space exploration.

Recently, the Belgium-based 3D printing software and solutions provider Materialise NV joined forces with Atos SE, a leader in digital services throughout Europe, to produce a revolutionary titanium insert for spacecraft structures. The partnering entities used Selective Laser Melting (SLM) Metal 3D Printing technology to produce the highly loaded inserts, which are used as mounting points to lift large and heavy structures. By implementing topology optimization into the design process, Materialse and Atos were able to cut down the mass of the insert from 1454 grams to just 500, a whopping 66% reduction in weight.

“We are proud with this innovation. By creating this complex product in metal additive manufacturing in such a short time, Atos and Materialise are amongst the top of providers of Metal 3D Printing solutions,” said Marta García-Cosío, the mechanical engineering director at Atos Spain. “The weight reduction will allow the increase of useful equipment to be used in satellites and result in considerable cost saving in each launch.”

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3D printed titanium insert

The 3D printed titanium insert developed by the collaborating companies is typically used to transport high mechanical loads like satellites, and generally composed of aluminum or titanium and manufactured by machining. This traditional production process leaves these inserts 100% solid filled, making their mass much higher than need be. But, with topology optimization, the design team was able to recreate the insert as a lightweight component, only using material where it was necessary.

When you stop to consider that each kilogram that is sent into orbit equates to around $20,000, it becomes clear that this lightweight 3D printed titanium insert will have a major impact on the aerospace industry. Utilizing their knowledge in aerospace engineering and structural simulation, Atos helped design both the interior and exterior of this component, enhancing its overall performance. Together, the Atos and Materialise collaborative team consisted of experts in aerospace, CAD design, structural design, materials science, and additive manufacturing.

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Topology Optimization helped to reduce the component’s weight by almost 70%

Two of these metal 3D printed inserts were manufactured at the Materialise Metal 3D Printing Factory in Bremen, Germany. Not only were they able to greatly reduce the weight of the aerospace component, the 3D printing process also showcased its potential to meet fast lead-times and eliminate the need for tooling. With the digital design-savvy of Atos and Materialise’s high-end 3D printing technology, the collaborative engineering team was able to enhance the the inset production process from start to finish, providing the ultimate end-to-end solution.

The metal 3D printed titanium inserts were developed to go alongside a research study named “Additive Manufacturing Hot Bonded inserts in sandwich structures”, which was written by both entities and presented at last week’s European Conference on Spacecraft Structures, Materials and Environmental Testing (ECSSMET 2016). The enhanced inserts and comprehensive study aim to improve the implementation of 3D printed metal components in aerospace and aeronautics production. The 3D printed component was showcased last week at the ECSSMET 2016, as both Atos and Materialise proved that 3D printing technology is the optimal tool for manufacturing high-end products and advanced engineering solutions. Discuss further in the Materialise 3D Printed Titanium Insert forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Materialise]
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