Safran and SLM Solutions 3D Print Novel Landing Gear for Business Jet

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French landing gear manufacturer Safran Landing Systems teamed up with SLM Solutions (AM3D.DE) to 3D print a novel patented part design of a nose landing gear for a business jet. The joint objective of the project is to demonstrate the feasibility of producing a large main fitting part using selective laser melting technology for the first time. Known for its lighter, quieter, and cost-efficient landing and braking systems, Safran has pioneered and revolutionized the industry by using lighter materials and more electric systems. As for its new patented part design, it is meeting the company’s mass reduction objectives, as well as some ambitious resistance.

The component was printed in a special titanium alloy on SLM Solutions’ large-scale metal 3D printing SLM 800 platform which has a build area of 500 x 280 x 850 mm. The material was chosen mainly due to the stringent requirements of the part. The landing gear is designed to absorb and dissipate the kinetic energy of landing impact from the wheel to the aircraft structure, reducing the impact loads. Titanium alloy has high mechanical properties and is naturally resistant to corrosion so it does not require any surface treatment. Additionally, it helps increase part durability.

“Additive manufacturing contributes to save time in the qualification and certification phases by rapidly providing the parts for testing,” said Gerhard Bierleutgeb, Executive Vice President of Global Services and Solutions at SLM. “We were able to produce the main fitting in a few days on the SLM®800, versus a few months with the forging process.”

Landing gear production at Safran. Image courtesy of Cyril Abad/CAPA Pictures/Safran.

SLM Solutions worked side by side with Safran in the production of the part, which measures 455 x 295 x 805 mm and was redesigned for metal-based additive manufacturing (AM), allowing time-saving throughout the entire process, along with a significant weight reduction of 15 percent. The Additive Manufacturing project leader at Safran, Thierry Berenger, said the choice to partner with SLM was due to the pioneering company’s expertise in selective laser melting and their SLM 800 machine, which exactly met the size and reliability requirements they needed.

The SLM 800 features an extended z-axis perfectly adapted for large-scale part production. The machine is equipped with SLM Solutions’ proven quad-laser technology and innovative features, like the patented gas flow and a permanent filter, that ensure the highest reliability. One of the strengths of SLM technology is its flexibility, as design changes can be quickly modified, printed, and tested, meaning less time is spent during the prototype development. SLM 800 is also outfitted to fulfill industrial-scale production thanks to its multi-machine configuration option. Through the SLM HUB, an automated cylinder handling and powder management station, the company has opened up new possibilities for large-scale industrial metal AM.

SLM 800 platform. Image courtesy of SLM Solutions via Twitter.

The airline industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many airlines do not expect a quick return to pre-2020 operation levels for many years. According to aviation analysis firm Oliver Wyman, domestic travel revenue isn’t expected to return to 2019 levels until the second half of 2022, with international travel revenue not expected to get back to its 2019 level until 2023. Many airline companies have chosen to retire their planes altogether, like Delta. The Atlanta-headquartered company will be retiring its entire fleet of Boeing 777s by the end of the year. On a similar move, British Airways will withdraw its entire 747 fleet after travel downturn.

Due to the nature of the pandemic, commercial airlines could be planning to redefine travel over the coming decades by increasing seat capacity for more comfort and social distancing. While they sort out how they want their planes to look in the future, the business jet market is already returning to normal, and private jet sales are increasing. Recovery is being spearheaded by the U.S. in March 2021, with midsize jets flying more than in previous years. Europe is also witnessing an improvement, despite the ongoing pandemic. Private jet operator GlobeAir said there are nearly 700 fewer “touch points” and person-to-person interactions when flying by private jet compared with commercial aircraft.

Safran Landing Systems designs, produces and supports landing and braking systems for all types of aircraft. Image courtesy of Philippe Stroppa/Safran Landing Systems.

Aside from large commercial aircraft, military planes, and helicopters, Safran is a leading supplier of the world’s business jet programs, including Bombardier‘s Global and Challenger families, and the complete family of Dassault Falcon jets, supporting more than 4,000 business jets in service. Pioneered in the early 1990s, Safran provides fully integrated landing gear systems for business jet platforms.

The company has stated that the challenges of the business jet market require a holistic view of the product life cycle to supply reliable, easy to maintain, and increasingly weight-effective and sustainable landing gear systems. This manufacturing need fits perfectly with AM workflows. Actually, for this project, SLM Solution’s robust machines can help Safran optimize fast, reliable, and cost-efficient part production, working towards modernizing landing gear manufacturing for business jets.

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