AERONAMIC SUCCESSFULLY PRINTS INLET HOUSINGS FOR AIR TURBINE STARTER
At Aeronamic we have our own 3D metal printer. For a while, we’ve been researching what this printer can do for us. Are we able to print parts that we normally purchase? Yes, we are! We succeeded in printing a part similar to the casting, but with better properties than the castings we normally purchase. That sets hope for the future!
We always invest in tomorrow’s productivity by investigating innovative production technologies for manufacturing complex aerospace parts and components. With the acquisition of the EOS M290 Metal Printer and associated equipment, Aeronamic seriously invested in the promising Laser Powder Bed Fusion technology. Our Additive Manufacturing Team aims for better results using this technology to improve part design, cost, performance, quality and availability. Using the printer we are able to effectively and efficiently investigate design changes at significantly reduced lead-time and cost.
We successfully printed an Inlet Housing for an Air Turbine Starter. These starters are assembled and submitted to a Functional Acceptance Test at Aeronamic and subsequently delivered to Jet Engine Manufacturers. Currently, the part is made out of a casting and CNC machined to final dimensions. Our additive team has printed the casting model on the metal printer out of Inconel 718 powder.
A typical feature on many printed parts in metal are the so-called support structures. These supports are needed to prevent collapsing of the part when using the Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF) process. The accuracy of printed metal parts is limited to approximately 0,1 mm. In order to achieve the required accuracy, parts need to be machined to final dimensions using CNC milling and turning. Once finished, the parts are assembled in a test unit and submitted to a full functional test. This test represents the actual conditions to start the engines of a jet airplane.
The next step
The results of the acceptance test were comparable or better than the parts made out of a casting. And that’s exactly what we aimed for. The main advantage of printing over castings is the flexibility to easily change geometrical features. Our first test was performed on an exact copy of the original component. The next step is to improve the component design to make it more suitable for printing, and to enhance the performance of the part. The first prototype is ready for finishing and shall be tested subsequently!