Primus Aerospace Purchases VELO3D 3D Printer for Hollow Fuel Tanks

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Defense contractor Primus Aerospace announced that they have bought VELO3D’s Sapphire powder bed fusion (PBF) printer. The Sapphire is unique for its ability to print low angles and without the need for supports.

VELO3D released the Sapphire back in 2018. Today, the Sapphire line is capable of printing in multiple metals, including titanium alloys and foundry-grade Aluminum F357. The systems have print beds up to 1000 mm tall, and 315 mm in diameter. But their main draw is the new shapes they allow users to print in. Unlike other PBF machines, the Sapphire can print hollow tubes up to 100 mm without the need for inner supports. It can also print low angles and overhangs down to zero degrees, eliminating the need for the conventional “45 degree rule” (which recommends supports for any surface less than 45 degrees).

A titanium fuel tank printed on the VELO3D sapphire, without the need for internal supports. Fuel tanks like these are used in defense and commercial aircraft (Image via VELO3D).

“Primus Aerospace is an excellent partner for us with their customer focus, commitment to innovation, and adoption of leading-edge technology,” said Benny Buller, founder and CEO of VELO3D. “Our capabilities will help them deliver to engineers and supply chain managers the part designs they want, not the limited part geometries that other commodity-AM suppliers say they can have.”

Primus has bought the Ti6Al4V version of the Sapphire, capable of printing in one of the most common industrial alloys of titanium. Once the printer comes in (which they expect will happen in Q1 of 2021), they will use it to print airworthy parts for their defense industry partners, including Lockheed, Boeing, and Raytheon.

The Titanium Sapphire has already been “test driven” for its ability to make reliable aircraft parts. In October 2020, Boom Supersonic used a Sapphire machine to print 21 parts for their XB-1 supersonic demonstrator aircraft. The prototype, which went on display in the company’s Denver Hanger, was a one-third scale version of a future 55-passenger supersonic airliner, planned for release in 2025.

The engineers on the XB-1 project were impressed by how the Sapphire was capable of printing in otherwise-impossible geometries and with incredibly thin walls. Primus leadership plans to use that flexibility to make parts they already produce – like cube satellites, hypersonics and turbine engines  – in different geometries. They hope this will let them make these parts more efficient, less expensively, and far more quickly.

“Our customers require maximum performance of their aerospace-related systems,” said Gary Vaillancourt, Primus’ Vice President of Engineering & Technical Sales. “Together with VELO3D, we can redefine what is possible in manufacturing through advanced AM technology.”

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