Arconic and Airbus Announce Cooperative Research Agreement for 3D Printed Airframe Components

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Three years ago, lightweight metals manufacturer Alcoa announced its intention to adopt 3D printing processes, and invested millions in 2015 to expand its facilities and accelerate development. That same year, the company announced that it would be separating into two, and launched its new value-add company Arconic, with a major focus on aerospace 3D printing, in 2016, not long after Alcoa and Airbus signed a contract for 3D printed aerospace components. Since then, Arconic has signed two additional agreements with Airbus in order to supply the aerospace leader and 3D printing fan with 3D printed nickel and titanium parts, like fuselage and engine pylon components, for its A320 commercial aircraft line. The companies will continue to work together to advance metal 3D printing for aircraft manufacturing under a new multi-year, cooperative research agreement to produce and qualify large-scale 3D printed airframe components.

Eric Roegner, Executive Vice President and Group President, Arconic Engineered Products and Solutions and Arconic Defense, said, “This agreement combines the expertise of two of the world’s top aerospace additive manufacturing companies to push the boundaries of 3D printing for aircraft production. Additive manufacturing promises a world where lighter, more complex aerospace parts are produced cheaper and faster. We’re joining forces to make that potential a reality in a bigger way than ever before.”

The agreement was announced this week at formnext 2017 in Frankfurt, and combines Arconic’s metallurgy and metal additive manufacturing expertise with the design and qualification capabilities of Airbus, coupled with its experience with certification from regulatory agencies. The two will work together to develop parameters and processes for making, and qualifying, large 3D printed metal structural parts, like rib structures and pylon spars, up to 3′ in length.

The first agreements that the two companies made last year set Arconic up perfectly as an innovation partner for Airbus in the rapidly growing 3D metal printing market. Now, Arconic will put the additive and advanced manufacturing capabilities at its Ohio and Pennsylvania facilities to the test, using electron beam high deposition rate technology to 3D print parts for aircraft. This method is well-suited for 3D printing larger aerospace components due to its speed – electron beam high deposition rate technology can produce large components up to 100 times faster than other additive technologies used to make smaller parts.

Under the research agreement, Arconic will also demonstrate the many benefits of its proprietary Ampliforge process, which actually combines both additive and traditional manufacturing with advanced materials. The process works by treating a nearly finished 3D printed part with another advanced manufacturing process, like forging, to enhance the part’s existing properties. The Ampliforge process results in objects that are superior in toughness, fatigue, and strength to parts made only with 3D printing, while simplifying overall production techniques and decreasing production lead times and material input.

The partnership between Arconic and Airbus goes even further than this new agreement – Airbus announced a 3D printing breakthrough in September when it completed the installation of 3D printed titanium brackets into a series production aircraft, the A350 XWB. Now, Arconic is using the laser powder bed technologies in its Texas facility to 3D print more of these titanium brackets for Airbus.

You can visit Arconic at formnext in Frankfurt this week at booth F41 in Hall 3.0. 3DPrint.com is also at formnext, working hard to bring you all the latest news from the showroom floor. Follow us on social media to get all of the latest news and announcements.

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