Aeromet and Partners Continue Development of A20X Aluminum Alloy for 3D Printing

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UK-based Aeromet International manufactures aluminum and cast metal parts for the aerospace and defense industries. It has several prominent customers for which it supplies airframe and engine parts such as fuel system components, wing tips, doors and heat exchangers. The company is also known for developing the world’s strongest commercially available aluminum casting alloy, A20X, which is the first new aluminum alloy brought to market for the aerospace industry in over 40 years. Now Aeromet is leading a group of companies to further develop A20X for additive manufacturing. 

The group has been awarded funding from the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Program (NATEP) to develop the alloy. As part of the High Strength Aluminum Powder for Additive Manufacture (HighSAP) project, Aeromet and its partners Rolls-Royce, Renishaw and PSI will work to further optimize A20X for additive manufacturing and produce a set of demonstrator parts.

NATEP, an Aerospace Growth Partnership initiative, is an industry-led program that supports UK companies in the aerospace industry developing innovative technologies.

“We are very pleased to have been awarded NATEP funding for this exciting project,” said Mike Bond, Director of Advanced Material Technology at Aeromet. “By working with our partners, we hope to further develop our powder technology and create a new option for high strength additive manufactured parts. NATEP is a great way for innovative companies to come together to develop cutting edge technologies.”

The A20X family includes the Metallic Materials Properties Development and Standardisation (MMPDS) approved A205 casting alloy and A20X powder for additive manufacturing. A20X is an aluminum-copper alloy with a highly refined microstructure and a unique solidification mechanism, giving it greater strength, fatigue and thermal characteristics than other alloys. Castings made from the alloy are already in production for high-strength, high-temperature aerospace applications, and HighSAP plans to take advantage of the alloy’s characteristics for additive manufacturing purposes.

“Rolls-Royce are excited to participate in this project and contribute to the development of this very promising new aluminium alloy,” said Paul Murray, Principal Materials Engineer at Rolls-Royce. “NATEP is a proven programme with a strong track record of supporting innovation in the UK aerospace supply chain.”

Aeromet has led two collaborative development projects through NATEP, and is actively engaged in cross-industry, collaborative R&D projects funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute. The company is also highly involved in the UK government’s industrial strategy for aerospace, known as the Aerospace Growth Partnership, which in turn is part of the Sharing in Growth program, a 2013 initiative to increase the productivity and effectiveness of the UK aerospace supply chain.

“PSI are very pleased to be a partner in this project which aligns very well with our strategy of optimising powders for additive manufacturing,” said Dr. Gordon Kerr of PSI Ltd. “PSI technology combines VIM with inert gas atomisation and this project will utilise our knowledge of processing and handling aluminium alloy powders.”

These companies will work together to develop what is already an extremely promising material into something that could prove central to increasing the use of additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry.

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[Images: Aeromet]

Type A Machines Partners with Silicon Valley's BriteLab to Manufacture its Industrial-Grade Series …

Series 1 Pro FFF Enterprise Bundle

Series 1 Pro FFF 3D Printer Enterprise Bundle with Tungsten Carbide Hot end and Optional Draft Shields.

“Manufacturing in the U.S. was important. While it’s critical we remain responsive to the market, we also feel an obligation to improve our local jobs economy.” Andrew Rutter CEO, Type A Machines

Type A Machines® and BriteLab® announced today it has been entered into a contract manufacturing relationship for the production of the award winning Series 1 3D printer. The partnership allows Type A Machines to meet the increasing global demand for its industrial-grade Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printer. BriteLab provides collaboration-based product lifecycle focused manufacturing solutions from its facility in San Jose, CA. As a result, Type A Machines’ products are being manufactured where they’re designed, Silicon Valley. The Type A Machines 3D printer product line will benefit greatly from BriteLab OEM management, factory automation, product engineering, and high volume expertise.

“The Type A Machines Series 1 line of 3D printers, featuring one of the largest build volumes, support for more than 80 materials, and hot-swappable integration with the Print Pod, has opened new opportunities for 3D manufacturers and entrepreneurs worldwide,” said Andrew Rutter, Type A Machines’ Founder and CEO. “Manufacturing in the U.S. was an important consideration in our selection of an OEM partner. While it’s critical we remain responsive to the market, and protect our intellectual property, we also feel an obligation to improve our local jobs economy. We’re pleased BriteLab was able to meet all of our requirements.”

According to Gartner, worldwide shipments of 3D printers topped 455,000 units in 2016, more than double 2015 shipments. Furthermore, by 2020 the market is expected to surge to more than 6.7 million units. By partnering with Britelab to manufacture the Series 1 line of 3D printers, Type A Machines is poised to meet this growing demand, while focusing on the needs of enterprise customers across the emerging global 3D manufacturing market.

“Type A Machines’ groundbreaking technologies exemplify the spirit that continues to make Silicon Valley the innovation capital of the world,” said Robert de Neve, CEO, BriteLab. “We look forward to collaborating with Type A Machines at a peer-to-peer level and applying our full OEM and automation expertise to help ensure their continued success.”

As part of the on-going relationship, BriteLab will provide Design for Manufacturing (DFM), Supply Chain Management (SCM) and New Product Introduction (NPI) services for the Type A Machines Series 1 product line. By providing Type A Machines high-volume manufacturing services at their scalable facilities in San Jose, CA, BriteLab can deliver product faster than any offshore facility, while enabling Type A Machines’ designers and engineers to stay intimately involved through final production. The result is a reduction in time to market, in IP theft associated with offshore manufacturing, and in travel time, while providing an increase in machine quality.

About Type A Machines:
Type A Machines designs and manufactures the Series 1™ line of FFF/FDM 3D printers as well as the industry-first Print Pod™, a centrally-managed parallel-production solution, scalable up to 60 individual Series 1 3D printers. Print Pod delivers a production solution at lower cost­-per-­part than injection molding and is ideal for Fablabs, makerspaces, print farms, low volume production, classrooms, and other heavy printing environments. An industry pioneer, Type A Machines continues to deliver the future of 3D manufacturing to customers today.

About BriteLab:
BriteLab is the premiere end-to-end product development partner in Silicon Valley, enabling new product innovation through a holistic, team-based experience, so that the best ideas can get to market faster, with more success, while keeping IP safe.

Come see for yourself—contact us to schedule a live tour of our highly creative, state-of-the-art facility or to schedule a telepresence tour using one of our propriety avatar robots.

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Stratasys launches two new 3D printers, partners with Boeing and Ford on applications


The new Stratasys Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator can make large parts for cars and planes.

Image: Stratasys

Two new 3D printers from Stratasys could revolutionize aerospace and automobile manufacturing, the company announced Wednesday. The machines represent the next step in large-scale 3D printing for manufacturing, which experts say will completely change the field in the next decade.

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The Infinite-Build 3D Demonstrator and the Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator expand the company’s Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology across manufacturing to more efficiently build bigger, stronger, higher-quality parts.

Stratasys also partnered with Boeing to define the requirements and specifications for the Infinite-Build to meet their needs for customized flight parts. Ford Motor Company is also exploring the machine’s abilities for car manufacturing, Stratasys announced.

Both the aerospace and automobile industries face pressure to continue to innovate and evolve—not only in performance, but in time to market, said Scott Sevcik, director of manufacturing platform development at Stratasys. Industry leaders are considering how to gain a competitive edge by offering a more differentiated passenger experience, whether in flight or on the road.

SEE: 3D printing: The smart person’s guide

“These industries are looking strongly toward 3D printing as a critical enabler to meet those needs going forward,” Sevcik said. “It offers the freedom of design, to be able to create parts that you could not make before with traditional processes.”

The new machines further Stratasys’ efforts in large-scale manufacturing with 3D printing. In June, the company announced a partnership with Toyota division Daihatsu, offering 10 different 3D printed designs and patterns that owners can customize for the Copen two-door convertible. While 3D printing has been used on a small scale for race car parts in the past, these projects represent the industry’s first move into more mainstream auto manufacturing.

Rise of 3D printing manufacturing

The adoption of industrial 3D printing continues to grow, with global spending on printers reaching nearly $11 billion in 2015. Spending is predicted to rise to about $27 billion by 2019, according to International Data Corporation.

About two-thirds of US manufacturers are currently adopting 3D printing in some way, an April PricewaterhouseCoopers report found—roughly the same number as did in 2014. However, 51% are using it for prototyping and final products, compared to 35% two years ago. And, 52% of manufacturers expect 3D printing to be used for high-volume production in the next 3-5 years, compared to 38% in 2014.

“3D printing is going to lead to as much change in manufacturing as the Industrial Revolution did over the last 300 years,” said Rick Smith, co-founder and CEO of Fast Radius, an on-demand manufacturing company backed by UPS. “For a larger and larger percentage of manufacturers, it makes sense to open up the full range of complexity, and to produce in smaller, customized batches.” At the same time, cost will drop and quality will rise, making it even more appealing for mass market production, Smith added.

3D printing is starting to disrupt two main areas of manufacturing, Smith said. The first is complexity: These machines can design parts with any geometry that cannot be made in any other way. This allows for part consolidation, which reduces weight.

The second disruption is in the supply chain: The ability to print customizable parts on demand enables zero inventory. “You can shift from mass production followed by mass warehousing to on demand production in smaller quantities with customization,” Smith said.

With more major companies investing in this technology, we can expect to see a dramatic acceleration of 3D printing adoption in industrial production in the next year, Smith said, and a complete change in production cycles in the next five to 10 years.

Large, customizable parts

Aerospace was one of the leading early adopters of 3D printing in manufacturing, due to the technology’s ability to increase performance outcomes and reduce weight, Smith said. Now, many of the applications from the aerospace industry are bleeding into the automotive industry, where weight reduction and performance outcomes are also significant concerns.

The new Stratasys Infinite-Build produces large, customizable tools and production parts designed for accuracy, repeatability, and speed. “We’re really going after the ability to do large, lightweight, thermoplastic parts with better mechanical processes on a repeatable basis,” Sevcik said. Applications include customized interior panels for aircrafts and dashboards for cars.

The machine literally flips FDM on its side, allowing you to 3D print on a vertical plane instead of horizontally, without size limits. It also operates at a speed 10 times faster than previously possible, Sevcik said. It can change in and out different types of material, with process control embedded in the system.

Meanwhile, the Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator enables automation of high-value composite parts for the aerospace and automotive industries, but also for industries such as sporting goods. The machine includes an 8-axis motion system, which uses precise, directional material placement to build strength while reducing or eliminating support strategies—rare for this type of manufacturing, Sevcik said.

This machine is aimed at increasing the growth of composite parts, making them lighter and more fuel efficient. Stratasys partnered with Siemens to integrate extrusion technology with Siemens Industry Motion Control and Siemens PLM Software, hoping to ease the labor-intensive processes and remove size limitations for composite part creation.

“The ability to print on demand where you need it, when you need it, is a major driver for these industries and how they look at 3D printing,” Sevcik said.

Both printers and other tools will be on display at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago from September 12-14, 2016.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. On Wednesday, Stratasys announced two new 3D printers to be used for manufacturing in the aerospace and automotive industries, with Boeing and Ford testing applications for them.
  2. 3D printing’s use in industrial manufacturing continues to grow, as about two-thirds of US manufacturers are currently adopting 3D printing in some way, with more than half using it for prototyping and final products this year.
  3. New 3D printing machines can reduce the weight and increase the performance of parts for planes and cars by consolidating composite parts.

Also see

UPS launches 3D printing network, partners with SAP