3D Printing in Aerospace is an increasingly demanded product line due to reduced scrap rates, rapid prototyping, and customization of complex components in comparison to subtractive manufacturing
The term “additive manufacturing” references computer based CAD models that grow three-dimensional objects one superfine layer at a time. Additive manufacturing currently has an advantage over subtractive manufacturing in the prototyping of Aerospace and Medical parts, but many speculate that growing advances in additive technology will have more widespread use in the industry in the future.
Currently, the technology for laser printing 3D parts in Aerospace is limited. The reason for this stems from a lack of machines that are capable of producing parts at the same scale as subtractive / traditional machining. Using the FIGURE 1 for reference, the machine cost and material cost in the production of parts through additive manufacturing is a steady linear relationship.
Aerospace manufacturers understand that Traditional manufacturing has more of an exponential decay relationship in production which is why the largest aerospace manufacturers have benefitted from scaling production (FIGURE 2)
FIGURE 3 represents the future of Additive Manufacturing where the cost of Titanium, Nickel, Stainless, and Aluminum Powders for Aerospace Manufacturing are reduced through increased Supply in the Market as well as an increase in the number of Additive Manufacturing (3D) Printers are in circulation.
FIGURE 1: The Unit Cost difference between 3D printing and Machining Cost
Future output when supply of 3D Metal Printers suitable for aerospace meets demand
In the future, 3D printing costs will decrease as patents on this technology expire allowing other entrants to the market. As more companies produce 3D printers, the supply will drive down the price of additive manufacturing and open up more opportunities for companies to use additive manufacturing in their processes. Hopefully as the supply of additive manufacturing increases, the quality of 3D printed parts increases through companies competing to produce higher quality machines that produce these parts. As noted by FIGURE 4, fatigue strength of 3D printed parts is a lot less than that of the traditional 6Al-4V subtractive parts.
6AL-4V Parts are much stronger when produced via subtractive machining compared to 3D printed giving them a longer life
Because the low fatigue strength of 3D printed parts is significantly lower than subtractive manufactured parts, Aerospace Manufacturers will not use these outside of prototyping due to the lack of quality in the long term. Why do 3D printed parts have a poor fatigue strength? It has to do with the grain formation from lasering powdered material into solid formations. Referencing Figure 5, Laser Direction dictates how a 3D printed part is built up, but based on granular flow, there may be irregularities.
Lasers hitting powder metals to form solid metals have a hard time with granular flow
Aerospace companies are already relying on Additive Manufacturing to produce prototypes for future projects and perform cost analysis on whether certain aerospace components can and should be brought to market. Because of this, there will be a demand for Hydrogenated Titanium, Nickel, Stainless, and Aluminum powders.
Fighter Jet Metals is a market leader in the supply of Powder for Titanium, Nickel, and Stainless Steel in the Additive Manufacturing Market. If you are currently working on a project that involves this material, please go to our Request for Quote page and share your requirement with us.