University Of Dayton Research Institute wins $3M funding to develop materials for additive manufacturing of aircraft engine components
The Ohio Third Frontier awarded $3 million to the University of Dayton Research Institute to provide specialized materials for use in additive manufacturing. UDRI will work with program partners, Stratasys, PolyOne and Rapid Prototype Plus Manufacturing Inc. to develop aircraft-engine components for GE Aviation—who also collaborated on the program proposal—as well as parts and components for ATK Aerospace Structures, Boeing, Goodrich, Honda, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
3-D printing technology has existed for about 20 years, but additive manufacturing in its current form is only about five years old, said Brian Rice, head of UDRI’s Multi-Scale Composites and Polymers Division and program lead for the Third Frontier-funded Advanced Materials for Additive Manufacturing Maturation program. (Earlier post.)
The difference is that 3-D printing is known in the industry as being used for nonfunctional prototypes or models, while additive manufacturing is being used to create usable parts for industries such as aerospace, energy, medical and consumer products.—Brian Rice
Although 3-D printers can use polymer, metal or ceramic feedstock, UDRI will focus on polymers.
UDRI has developed a highly specialized nanomaterial that will reinforce the polymer feedstock, giving the finished product greater strength and stiffness than non-reinforced polymer. It will also make the polymer electrically conductive.—Brian Rice
PolyOne will scale-up the polymer feedstock needed for mass manufacturing, Stratasys will support the inclusion of new materials in their additive manufacturing systems, and RP+M will use its expertise in additive parts manufacturing to work with Stratasys to print and supply parts to end users, Rice said.
By 2015, the sale of additive manufacturing products and services worldwide is expected to grow to $3.7 billion from $1.71 billion in 2011, according to independent consultants Wohlers Associates.
Cost savings is a major benefit, because there are no molds or tooling needed to fabricate parts. With traditional manufacturing, every time you want to make even a slight change to the design of what you are making, you have to retool or make an entirely new mold, and that gets very expensive. With additive manufacturing, you can change your design as often as you want simply by changing the design on your computer file.
You can’t make complex parts with injection molding. And because you can print an entire part in one piece with additive manufacturing, instead of welding or attaching separate components together as in traditional manufacturing, the finished part is stronger.—Brian Rice
Additive manufacturing holds additional benefits such as reduced waste, said Jeff DeGrange, Vice President of Stratasys, which owns an industrial line of additive manufacturing machines that will be used to print components for end users.
Additive manufacturing also eliminates the need for bolts, screws and welding and, in some cases, reinforced polymers can be used to replace heavier materials, DeGrange added.
Lighter parts mean greater fuel efficiency in vehicles and aircraft that use them. Another advantage is the cost savings that comes from a print-as-needed process, because you don’t need to ship parts or find a place to warehouse them.—Jeff DeGrange