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China Unveils 5-meter long titanium airplane part 3D printed in one piece (US)

10-06-2013

Category : Recherche & Développement

03

The lab has recently manufactured a central wing spar with Laser Additive Manufacturing technology for Comac C919 passenger-plane which is expected to take place in 2014 and to enter commercial service in 2016. This central wing spar is 5 meter long and its mechanical properties meet the standard of forging parts. (Credit Photo @ cnwest)

Jan.18, 2013 – It is easy to understand why aerospace industry loves titanium. Titanium parts are light, weigh only half as much as steel parts, but its strength is far greater than the strength of many alloy steels. Most titanium alloys are poor thermal conductors, therefore thermal based additive manufacturing (AM) is an effective way to process titanium alloys. In addition, it is often expensive to cast and machine parts from titanium, AM process is proven not only to be cost effective but could also shorten lead time. The State Key Laboratory of Solidification Processing, Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) in China began its research of Laser Additive Manufacturing (LAM) in 1995. The emphasis has been focused on obtaining excellent mechanical properties for LAMed metal parts through careful control of the material microstructures. The material of LAMed parts include titanium alloys, superalloys, and stainless steel.  “Modern aerospace industry has stringent requirements, so complex additive manufacturing processes must be developed to meet to ensure that products can achieve the robust performance levels established by traditional manufacturing methods.” said Huang Weidong, Lab director of NPU. The lab has made two Laser Additive Manufacturing machines with CO2 and YAG laser of several kilowatts beam power as heat source. The oxygen content of the argon filled in chamber can be measured and controlled strictly. The lab has recently manufactured a central wing spar with Laser Additive Manufacturing technology for Comac C919 passenger-plane which is expected to take place in 2014 and to enter commercial service in 2016. This central wing spar is 5 meter long and its mechanical properties meet the standard of forging parts. “Furthermore, aerospace parts have often complex structure, it could cost thousands or millions dollars to raplace the damage parts. LAM can be employed in repairing these metal parts without changes the preformance and it can save our time and cost siginificantly.” said Huang.

 

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It is simply amazing how titanium parts can be printed with 3D printers! 5 years ago, it was so difficult and required a lot of expertise to form and build titanium parts to be exact but now 3D printers make everything possible!

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