AM holds promise for cheaper aircraft parts

A recent study has concluded that the cost of some aircraft parts could be substantially reduced if additive manufacturing methods were used instead of more traditional processes.

The study, carried out by European aerospace giant EADS and laser-sintering system manufacturers EOS, used a nacelle hinge bracket from the Airbus A320 and compared the titanium component by rapid investment casting and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS).

The study concluded that material consumption can be reduced by 75% and CO2 emissions by 40%, despite the fact that the EOS technology uses significantly more energy during manufacture. Both these factors contribute to an overall cost reduction.

The study included the production phase and also the sourcing and transportation of raw materials, argon consumption for the atomisation of the DMLS metal powder, as well as the overall waste from atomisation.

However, the study focused on the comparison between DMLS and rapid investment casting of a single part and does not take into account the question of scalability, which has yet to be addressed.

The optimised design of the nacelle hinge bracket did demonstrate, though, that the potential to reduce the weight of each aircraft by around 10kg.

Justin Cunningham

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