How New Entrants are Changing the Face of Aerospace 3D Printing Industry

How New Entrants are Changing the Face of Aerospace 3D Printing Industry: 3D Printing is a layer-by-layer manufacturing process for producing 3D objects directly from a digital 3D model. Presently, the Aerospace 3D printing industry is at an advanced level in the industrial developed countries. Large enterprises that are working in Aerospace 3D Printing are mainly concentrated in USA and Europe. These companies have advanced equipment, strong R & D capability and superior technical level. Let us see the new players in the market for Aerospace 3D printing:

  • Ariane Group is a joint venture of the European aerospace company Airbus and the French group Safran. This group entails three core businesses which are: aerospace (orbital propulsion systems as well as equipment), defence, and security that focus on the development and subsequent production of Ariane 6.

In 2015, Ariane Group filed its first patent that disclosed the propulsion chamber of a rocket engine and a method of fabricating it by using 3D printing.

  • Xi’an Aero-Engine Corporation – One of the key aircraft engine designers as well as manufacturer in China.

In 2017, Xi’an Aero-Engine Corporation fileda patent that discloses a 3D printing air turbine shell grinding device. This patent is related to a 3D printing air turbine shell abrasive particle smoothing and processing device. It is used for finishing the surface of inner flow channel of air turbine shell and belongs to the field of surface finishing of 3D printed metal parts.

In 2018, Xi’an Aero-Engine Corporation filed a patent that features an aerospace engine heat exchange component and preparation method thereof by using metal additive manufacturing. The heat exchange module of traditional space engine heat exchange component is usually designed as an array of rectangular milling groove structures or serpentine tube structure sets and comprises of a complicated structure. The manufacturing process for these components is mechanical processing + welding or chemical milling + welding and due to this, the manufacturing process is long. The heat exchange efficiency of components is low also. Therefore, this method is used for ensuring the reliability and life of the engine by developing a 3D printing manufacturing method of heat exchange technology.

  • AECC COMMERCIAL AIRCRAFT ENGINE CO. LTD (AECC) is a top aero-engine OEM in China for commercial purposes.

In 2016, AECC filed a patent that discloses an aero engine bearing supporting awl wall that can fuse. The fusible aero engine bearing support wall includes a fusible cone wall body including a fusible outer cone wall, a fusible inner cone wall and a non-melt wall. The cone wall body is generated on the aero engine bearing support cone wall by using 3D printing or diffusion connection welding. The fusible components on the supporting cone wall can fuse the outer and inner cone walls to fail, absorb part impact energy and reduce the peak load. This method reduces the design difficulty of the engine component system and contributes to the design of engine weight reduction.

In 2019, AECC further filed a patent that discloses a stator guide blade of an aero engine formed by using a 3D printing process. China’s current aero engine design methods are conservative, lacking more advanced and efficient design methods and innovative structural design configurations. This patent discloses a method to overcome the defects in the prior art such as the complicated structure and complicated assembly process of the aero engine stator guide blades and to provide a stator guide blade and an aero engine including the same.

  • Additive Rocket Corporation (ARC) that was founded in 2015, operates in the domain of advanced simulation and metal printing in order to create highly optimized propulsion systems that are used by defence and space industries. The company uses additive manufacturing to create novel solutions to even the most challenging mission parameters.

In 2016, ARC filed a patent that discloses about a fractal fluid passages apparatus that comprises plurality of fractal fluid passages that are additively manufactured. Fluid passages are conventionally built with multiple pieces and required to be welded and fastened together. For ease of manufacturing and replicability, these fluid passages design exhibits numerous failure points or high stress areas. Here these problems are solved by using additive manufacturing technologies.

  • Zodiac Aerospace is a French aerospace company that was established in 1896 and deals with the supply systems and equipment for aircraft. It was acquired by French aerospace and defence company Safran in October 2018.

In 2016, Zodiac Aerospace filed a patent that discloses a method of manufacturing of a strainer. The strainer is a part of the ejector and transfers fuel between the two tanks of an aircraft or used to supply fuel to the engine. Earlier, the design and manufacturing of a strainer was time-consuming, costly, and tedious. Furthermore, it has been observed that the electrical continuity between the components of the strainer was not sufficient, such that this required implementing additional protection and surface treatments, making the manufacturing process still more complex, and thus increasing its cost. Additive manufacturing resolves these drawbacks by proposing a method for manufacturing a strainer, such as an ejector strainer. These methods are simple, quick, and inexpensive.

In 2016, Zodiac Aerospace filed a patent that discloses a method of manufacturing of a strainer. The strainer is a part of the ejector and transfers fuel between the two tanks of an aircraft or used to supply fuel to the engine. Earlier, the design and manufacturing of a strainer was time-consuming, costly, and tedious. Furthermore, it has been observed that the electrical continuity between the components of the strainer was not sufficient, such that this required implementing additional protection and surface treatments, making the manufacturing process still more complex, and thus increasing its cost. Additive manufacturing resolves these drawbacks by proposing a method for manufacturing a strainer, such as an ejector strainer. These methods are simple, quick, and inexpensive.

Final Thoughts

The above organizations are new entrants in aerospace 3D printing who have patent filings in Aerospace 3D printing field since 2015. The new entrants play a vital role in Aerospace 3D printing field. These players have filed for the patent protection of the new technologies that they have developed. They also contribute to the advancement of this field by motivating the players who are working in this domain to innovate. And eventually, they attract investors who might be keen on the advancement and betterment of this domain.

-Prabha Shankar (Engineering) and the Editorial Team

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