Additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing

GKN Aerospace has taken the lead in additive manufacturing (AM) technology and the first AM parts certified for flight are already in operation in the commercial, military and space markets. 

The term additive manufacturing covers a suite of different processes all following the principle of creating components layer-by-layer, enabling the production of complex structures directly from 3D CAD models. Additive manufacturing (AM) is a disruptive, revolutionary technology that will impact global manufacturing and can be applied right across GKN’s product portfolio. 

Benefits of AM:

  • Reduction in lead times - rapid prototyping and demonstrators, design process flexibility and efficiency, quick tailored tooling, fast obsolescent part replacement.
  • Efficient manufacturing - only uses the material you need, near net substitution parts, lightweight design, system integration, high value component repair and re-life.
  • Making what you can’t today - new materials, bionic optimised design, functionally graded structures, embedded systems and system integration.

GKN Aerospace is applying a range of AM processes right across its portfolio in aeroengines, airframes, special products and services. Visit our GKN Additive website for more information. 

In focus – wire deposition

Wire deposition leverages GKN Aerospace’s strengths across airframes and engine applications, bringing significant benefits to these products.

The laser wire deposition process is categorised as a Direct Energy Deposition (DED) Additive Manufacturing process. This process utilises a high-energy laser beam to melt wire feedstock in order to form a melt pool on the surface of a substrate. Using advanced robotic controls, this melt pool is manipulated along a 3D path and allowed to solidify in order to fabricate specific geometries as defined by a CAD model.

In the foreground, the Vulcain 2 demonstration nozzle has more than 50 kg of Laser Wire AM deposition. It is not only used to reinforce the structure but also join to parts, which enabled significant cost savings. In the background is the Vulcain 2 nozzle for the Ariane 5 rocket.

This technology has wide ranging applications, from aero engine and space engine applications to use on large scale aerostructure components.

At our Centre of Excellence in Sweden, the first in-service application was a set of titanium bosses applied on a civil jet engine structure component. This technology was certified and entered into production 2011. Building on this work, AM structures have been added to space engine nozzles and are now in development for stiffeners on engine structures.

Our Additive Manufacturing Technology Centre in St. Louis, US, is developing DED AM technology with our partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, leveraging the existing laser wire capability developed by the team in Sweden. The AMTC is focused on developing laser wire technology for medium to large titanium aerospace applications and current targeted parts include, but are not limited to, ribs, spars, bulkheads, and frames. 

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