Space hardware firms have stated that they completely anticipate 3D printing to transform manufacturing. However, they warned that the technology is at times sold minus a full knowledge of its cons and pros.
Manufactures at the Space Tech Expo Europe said that they are increasingly using 3D printing to create parts. However, the technology is not uncomplicated as usually assumed.
“There is such a misconception that you buy a [3D printer], plug it in, you put in your euros and that’s it — parts start popping out,” said the GE Additive’s innovation leader, Josh Mook. “It’s really not anything like that. You have to have a respect for the technology and you still need a level of sophistication.” He added.
Mook added that GE Additive supplies 3D printed components up to ten meters in width for satellites and different engineering projects. In the beginning, most engineers at ArianeGroup seized on the concept of 3D printing.
The reason was that it was the best strategy for everything. However, they realized it does not always cut costs. This is according to the head of liquid propulsion engineering at ArianeGroup, Gerald Hagemann.
Hagemann said that it is the best when it comes to prototyping. He also said that it has not been shown that printing may reduce costs for serial production.
According to Hagemann, ArianeGroup has 3D printed components on the Ariane 5. It has also printed more on the Ariane 6 that debuts in 2020. However, the firm is careful in how it chooses to maximize that making strategy.
For prototyping, 3D printing offers a pace boost that makes it useful. However, 3D printing for serial manufacturing is a bit hard. This is as stated by the head of additive manufacturing engineering services at Siemens, Ole Geisen.
“We had designers who were very much capable of designing for performance and designing for manufacturability, but designing and engineering for cost in [additive manufacturing], people haven’t really put a lot of effort into it,” he stated. “This is now something we have to push very hard.”
Geisen stated that Siemens has a team of about 150 individuals that focus specifically on 3D printing. The firm 3D prints pieces for its products and for clients. This includes some in the space sector. Giesen explained.
According to Hagemann a single section ArianeGroup is 3D printing for Ariane 6 is an injector head. This is because additive manufacturing lowered the part count from thousand to one. This generated new hurdles since the engine piece was not easily inspectable, he added. Also, X-rays don’t run because the section is made of thick metal, he explained.
Mook stated that GE Additive decreased the piece count in a jet motor from about 850 to 12 utilizing 3D printing.
“What I always tell people is that it is an amazing tool,” he said. “It lowers the barrier to entry in a huge way, it changes the way we approach problems, but it’s not a replacement for engineering.”
Also, Mook stated that GE has used over $2 billion on qualification and standardization simply for 3D printing.