The additive revolution in metal fabrication continues to spread well beyond its first application in aircraft engines. “We expect that in the next two to three years there will be 20 to-30 metal parts qualified and certified for aerospace applications beyond engine parts,” summarizes to Paula Hay, executive director of Additive Design and Manufacturing at UTC Aerospace Systems. ”Each year, we will see more metal additive parts join the flying fleet as we perfect the process and find new, better ways to utilize this technology.”
The highly diversified aerospace OEM is developing additive capabilities across business units to improve performance and reduce weight, lead time, cost and inventory. “We are also producing and engineering optimized part designs that aren’t even possible with traditional manufacturing methods,” Hay stresses.
In its additive development programs UTC is seeing reductions in part counts of 50% to 80%, weight savings between 10% and 30% and lead-time reductions of 60% to 80%. And these gains cross a wide variety of component types: electrical, engine and environmental systems, aerostructures, landing systems, sensors, interiors and actuation devices.
Additive manufacturing allows design freedom to reduce weight and enhance functionality. Hay says that makes additive great for small complex parts or multi-piece assemblies that now have to be brazed and welded together. These parts include heat exchangers, housings, nozzles, ducting systems and even structural parts, such as brackets and bumpers. Redesign first means part counts come down. Furthermore, engineers can eliminate joining processes, making parts more durable and efficient.
Hay notes that laser and electron beam powder bed processes have received the most attention in aerospace. But wire and powder deposition processes have also been looking suitable in recent years. UTC is working on a wide spectrum of materials, including aluminum, Inconel, titanium, copper, nickel and special alloys. It is beginning to work with directed energy deposition. “We have more than doubled our metal-machine capacity over the past year and expanded our material base significantly,” she adds.