French 3D printer manufacturer Prodways Group, a very successful subsidiary of Groupe Gorgé that went public on the European stock exchange in May, has made a big announcement that could have a major impact on the aerospace and aeronautical sectors. The timing of the announcement seems pretty strategic, as Le Bourget Paris Air Show is getting ready to open in just a few days, and 3D printing is set to have a notable presence. Prodways Group is introducing its newest 3D metal printing technology, Rapid Additive Forging (RAF), which will be used to print large titanium parts.
The company already enjoys success, and offers multi-material solutions, with its patented, proprietary MOVINGLIGHT technology, which is based on a DLP process that uses strong, moving UV rays to deliver high-speed, detailed prints. Prodways Group has already filed a patent application for its new RAF technology, developed together with another Groupe Gorgé subsidiary, Commercy Robotique, which has specialized in robotized welding for over 40 years.
Rapid Additive Forging technology was built thanks to a strengthening of the company’s metal 3D printing offering and a continuous R&D effort. Typically, large metal parts that are produced for critical applications, and especially aeronautical titanium components, use slow, expensive manufacturing processes, which often combine machining and forging techniques. Some of these titanium parts have manufacturing lead times that are longer than a year, which means that a lot of metal is likely being wasted during the process.
The 3D printer that Prodways Group developed for its new RAF process utilizes a robot, which is equipped with a head that deposits molten metal into an inert gas atmosphere. The process uses a distinctive metal deposition technology that’s focused on process repeatability and metallurgical quality, and it only takes a few hours for the part to be 3D printed, as the metal is steadily deposited layer by layer in the atmosphere. The printer quickly builds titanium blanks, which have similar geometry to the final component, and the titanium blanks are then finish-machined.
Prodways Group’s innovative new RAF process has already been tested on different metals, but is used particularly to 3D print with titanium. As we know, the biocompatible metal is being increasingly used in production of new-generation aircraft, as it offers good mechanical properties and corrosion resistance, and big names like Airbus and Boeing are already on board with 3D printed titanium aircraft components.
There are multiple companies in the aeronautical industry that believe that Prodways Group’s new RAF technology could be applied to almost 50% of the titanium parts that are currently used to manufacture an aircraft, which would offering savings of up to 50% on parts production cost. The first metallurgical tests conducted on different parts that were printed with the RAF process showed a greater mechanical resistance and absence of porosity, in comparison with typical 3D metal printing processes like laser or electron beam sintering.
Prodways Group’s third-generation prototype was able to print parts that were over 70 cm in size, and it’s currently working to develop the next version, which would print parts up to 2 m. The company says that its new process has already caught the eye of several top industrial groups, and it will be providing regular updates on the technology’s development. Discuss in the Prodways Group forum at 3DPB.com.