GKN Aerospace Invests £50M in Sustainable 3D Printing

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Leading UK aerospace manufacturer, GKN Aerospace, announced that it will be investing £50 million (about $64 million) in the company’s additive manufacturing (AM) capabilities at its Trollhättan, Sweden facility. £12 million of the funding (~$15 million) will come from Industriklivet, a financing initiative for sustainability and Industry 4.0 objectives within the Swedish Energy Agency.

GKN Aerospace is one of the world’s most experienced innovators when it comes to AM, with the company having organized its AM activity into a standalone brand, GKN Additive, in 2017. And, relevantly to the new £50 million investment, GKN Aerospace acquired Swedish directed energy deposition (DED) original equipment manufacturer (OEM), Permanova Lasersystem AB, in the fall of 2022.

The new AM facility in Sweden is expected to be operational sometime this year, and it is estimated that the investment will create about 150 new jobs. The most exciting aspect to the announcement is that it’s signaling the increased use of AM for engine components, in particular:

In a press release about GKN Aerospace’s £50 million investment in an AM facility in Sweden, Joakim Andersson, president of GKN Aerospace’s Engines business, said, “We are committed to driving sustainability in the aviation industry and pioneering improved solutions for our customers. Our development of additive fabrication for large, complex and load-bearing aircraft components is a great example of this and it marks a significant breakthrough for the industry. The benefits we see from this technology are truly game-changing. Government support has been pivotal in enabling us to push our capabilities forward and I am delighted to establish this unique technology in our world-leading facility in Trollhättan, Sweden.”

The head of Research, Innovation and Business Development at the Swedish Energy Agency, Peter Engdahl, said, “GKN Aerospace’s solution will be able to contribute to a reduced use of raw materials and create opportunities to fundamentally change the design, making the aircraft engine lighter and more efficient. This is the first time this technology is being tested for this component size and we see the potential for it to spread globally and also in other areas.”

In addition to enhancing the sustainability of GKN’s overall operational footprint, the new investment could also certainly contribute to the acceleration of AM’s deployment for supply chain digitalization. As I wrote in a post from last October, supply chain digitalization is an increasingly urgent priority in the aerospace sector due to the rise of falsely certified aircraft parts.

It is highly possible that this exact problem is about to rear its head even more prominently. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has temporarily grounded the Boeing 737 MAX 9, in response to a panel door blowout mid-flight on an Alaska Airlines craft last week.

While the reason behind the malfunction is unclear as yet, it has already led to the discovery of more problems, including “loose hardware”, on other 737’s that have been grounded. Aerospace industry stakeholders may rapidly gain a far greater interest in all potential uses of AM for digitally-enabled quality control.

Images courtesy of GKN Aerospace

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