Electron beam melting uses a high power source which uses electromagnetic coils to provide several “melt pools” which can be precisely controlled and maintained simultaneously. The EBM process takes place within a vacuum and at very high temperatures. The end results are metal parts which are “stress relieved”, feature material properties comparable to wrought metal, and are superior to those which are cast.
For each layer in a build, the electron beam heats the entire powder bed to an optimal temperature according to the particular material used, and the end product features unique microstructural properties. It’s for that reason that GKN Aerospace entered a strategic partnership with Arcam AB to develop and industrialize the EBM technology for the aerospace market.
GKN and Arcam say the partnership will focus on developing electron beam melting which can produce very precise, complex, small to medium-sized components which require very little finishing.
The details of the deal saw GKN Aerospace order a pair of ARCAM Q20 EBM machines which will be installed in Bristol, UK, at the GKN Aerospace additive manufacturing (AM) center. The companies say engineers from GKN Aerospace and ARCAM will work together to refine the “next generation” of EBM equipment capable of building complex titanium structures at very high production volumes.
“We have been working with Arcam for some time exploring what we believe to be one of the most promising of the additive processes. Our aim has been to fully understand how EBM can be applied to our future aero-structures and aero engines portfolio,” says Russ Dunn, Senior Vice President for Engineering and Technology at GKN Aerospace. “Through this new strategic partnership with ARCAM our combined additive manufacturing teams will now take the next steps towards fully industrializing this AM technology.”
The agreement is a part of the GKN AM research and development initiative, and the company has established four global centers in North America and Europe to develop additive processes and technologies.
GKN says it’s the greater speed and consistency of AM, and its ability to produce components which are lighter, more cost-effective and generate less waste during the manufacturing process that is most attractive for the future of manufacturing.
“We believe the array of processes that fall under the ‘additive’ umbrella will revolutionize manufacturing across every industrial sector – particularly in aerospace where cost, weight and performance are critical,” Dunn says. “Drawing on GKN Powder Metallurgy’s experience – and our own extensive aerospace expertise – we aim to develop a roadmap that will industrialize additive manufacturing for this sector.”
GKN Aerospace has over 100 years of aerospace experience, building assemblies in both metallic and composite materials. The company employs some 12,000 people in more than 35 facilities across 4 continents.
Have you heard of electron beam melting 3D printing technology for metal parts? Have you worked with Arcam machines? Let us know in the GKN Aerospace and Arcam Deal forum thread on 3DPB.com.