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A.M. STATE OF THE ART: Experts Share Takeaways from Additive Aerospace 2015

A.M. STATE OF THE ART: Experts Share Takeaways from Additive Aerospace 2015

October’s 3rd Additive Aerospace Summit provided a comprehensive view on the latest in additive manufacturing, as well problems emerging in the landscape as AM technology continues to advance. Featuring presentations on everything from 3D-printed drones, cars and sternums to increasingly lighter-weight alloys optimized for aviation, the event provided a unique insight into the diversity of applications covered by the AM industry.

Expert attendees shared their post-summit thoughts on what's ahead in the A.M. space, and what roadblocks still stand in the way of mass adoption.  

Here’s what they had to say:

“The speed of AM is not the primary production issue for aerospace, faster machines are not needed. Design/validation, post processing quality assurance and inspection of AM components are the critical issues to address.”

“Process monitoring, sensing and feedback control are necessary improvements for AM machines to meet aerospace needs”

“Topological optimization is good, but a better result would be complete design optimization and validation.”
-Slade Gardner, Lockheed Martin Space Systems

“The FAA certification of civil aircraft components that are manufactured or repaired by AM can be daunting since the industry is at an embryonic stage.  This needs to be addressed at the same time as all the product development initiatives.  Otherwise, we would be “all dressed up and have nowhere to go!”

“If standards are being developed by the ASTM and SAE, the FAA as well as EASA in Europe need to fully involved since they are the regulatory agencies that will finally approve the part to go on to an aircraft.”

“Material/Mechanical  properties of AM parts need to be thoroughly investigated: not just tensile, creep and some fatigue testing but High Cycle Fatigue, Short Crack Growth, HCF+LCF interactions, fretting fatigue, Impact, Fracture Toughness, Erosion/Corrosion and so on, depending upon the intended application. Inspection reliability is also very important.”
-Raj Thamburaj, Magellan Aerospace

“From R&D standpoint, start talking more about composition/microstructural variation within a component that will enable new design”

“Continue pushing forward these training centers. Collaboration is great, rather than each entity inventing/learning things on their own. I realize this is difficult when IP, trade secrets, know how, etc. are a part of a business, though.”

“Push for additive manufacturing with bulk metallic glasses!”
-Stephanie O’Keefe, Liquid Metal

“Aerospace Industry seems to be committed to understanding 3D printing technology and how to use it.”

“The equipment suppliers are not skilled at "High Quality Manufacturing" requirements and disciplines.”

“The AM ecosystem is still immature.  The key components: parts fabrication systems and methods, materials supply cost/quality, ability to design for AM, and inspection/QC systems all need development.  It seems to me that the end users with the most to gain are underinvesting in maturing the ecosystem.”
-Lou Steen, COSM Advanced Manufacturing Systems

State of Additive Manufacturing - The Challenges Ahead

As it stands, not enough people truly the know ins and outs of A.M., and it may take years to grasp the full scope of technology and educate the workforce needed to carry out projects as both an engineer and a manufacturer. Additionally, while the technology itself is rapidly progressing, design structures and software lag behind as we start to shift away from more traditional cubes and cylinders and toward lattice structures that draw inspiration from nature.

Another concern is the near absence of regulations within the A.M industry. Federal Aviation Association (FAA) qualification, followed by expense, are the two big stumbling blocks in the space, and it’s really difficult to justify spending time or money on printing parts for use space or aviation until FAA starts.

As 3D printing capabilities continue to evolve, it will become ever more difficult to establish a clear set of FAA regulations; 3D printers now have increased potential to print bogus parts, which could pose safety risks to aircraft passengers. 

While innovation is clearly underway, much needs to be done on a holistic level to bring additive manufacturing into the mainstream.