Additive manufacturing could bring space fuel tank production back to the UK

Today, the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), Scotland, and Airbus Defence and Space launched a project that may see additive manufacturing applied to the production of fuel tanks. The project to be undertaken between the two partners aims to reshore space propellant tank manufacture in the UK. Independent welding research organization TWI has been enlisted to help decipher which method is best suited for competitively producing the tanks. Efforts are being funded by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Example space propellant tanks on the exterior of ESA's LISA Pathfinder. Photo via ESA

Renato Bellarosa, Head of Tank Products and Research and Technology (R&T) Manager at Airbus DS, comments, “Propellant tanks are key strategic items that we currently must procure from Germany or the United States, and we are working to re-establish the capability to make them in the UK. We had this in the past, but it was lost when the parent company of the firm involved took the production back to Germany.

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3D metal printer to shorten military supply chain

In an attempt to shorten the U.S. military’s supply chain, the United States Army Research Laboratory has awarded a $15 million contract to 3D systems to develop a metal printing 3D printer.

The company will team up with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) to develop the “largest, fastest, most precise metal 3D printer.”

3d metal printer

The intent is to add capabilities to military supply chains developing and manufacturing combat vehicles, helicopters, missile defense capabilities, long rang munitions, and more.

The project is a part of the United States Army’s Additive Manufacturing Implementation Plan that uses 3D printing technologies to refurbish and create military parts and tools.

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A glimpse of 3D

3D printing of food is turning from pipe dream into commercial reality, as nutrition supplements firm Nourish3d is about to prove.

Nourishe3d founder Melissa Snover shares her dream for personalised nutrition using 3D printing

While the idea of 3D printed food might still seem in the realms of a sci-fi novel, the technology s very much present and already being deployed by, in particular, baking industry professionals for cake or pastry decoration.

At present, the technology is limited and relatively expensive, with the lowest cost of a 3D printer being around $1,000 (£784). Using extrusion, current 3D printers can only handle paste or puree ingredients, such as chocolate, cream or batter. However, the technology is beginning to gain traction, with users understanding how it can help to meet changing demands from consumers.

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Wärtsilä Marine testing potential of additive manufacturing

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When Wärtsilä Marine Solutions took the decision to utilize additive manufacturing to create a vital component for an inert gas system, initial production prototypes displayed an unexpected characteristic. In this new field, with new potential, DNV GL’s established expertise was on hand to help. Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has the potential to transform the maritime equipment supply chain. With the adoption of technology enabling printing in metal, vital spare parts and system components can now be printed on demand in locations around the world, including on vessels themselves. The result is dramatically reduced lead times, costs, labour needs, stock requirements and environmental impact, as well as the complete disruption of traditional business models.

And that’s just the supply side. The impact on manufacturing capability is just as radical. Suddenly the constraints of traditional processes can be broken, with machines bringing previously impossible designs to life through the precise application of layer upon layer of metals. For the frontrunners in maritime manufacturing, such as Wärtsilä Moss AS, it represents a special kind of magic.

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Testing the potential of additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has the potential to transform the maritime equipment supply chain. With the adoption of technology enabling printing in metal, vital spare parts and system components can now be printed on demand in locations around the world, including on vessels themselves. The result is dramatically reduced lead times, costs, labour needs, stock requirements and environmental impact (with less logistics and less waste), as well as the complete disruption of traditional business models.

And that’s just the supply side. The impact on manufacturing capability is just as radical. Suddenly the constraints of traditional processes can be broken, with machines bringing previously impossible designs to life through the precise application of layer upon layer of metals. For the frontrunners in maritime manufacturing, such as Wärtsilä Moss AS (a division of Wärtsilä Marine Solutions), it represents a special kind of magic.

Unique potential

“We came up with a new design that could only be realized with AM fabrication,” he explains. “The geometry of the part, the complexity involved in producing it, makes it far too difficult and expensive to manufacture using traditional methods. It can only be brought to life with AM.”

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Supply chain expands to meet demand for 3D-printed space parts

It’s not clear whether the additive manufacturing supply chain will expand rapidly enough to meet growing demand for 3D-printed parts for spacecraft or launch vehicles.

When companies are starting out, it’s easy for them to turn to additive manufacturing service providers for a few parts, said Scott Killian, aerospace business development manager for EOS North America. “Once companies move into production, they’re going to have to figure out whether the supply chain can still meet their needs,” he added. “There’s a lot of ebb and flow right now on getting that supply chain to ramp up.”

Many space companies work directly with EOS, a German manufacturer of 3D printing machines, or print parts on EOS equipment operated by additive manufacturing service providers. The only rocket customer Killian can discuss is Launcher. The New York company developing a 3D-printed copper bi-metal engine has agreed to a joint marketing campaign with EOS.

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Kongsberg Maritime tests SLS to subsea extremes with 3DPRINTUK

A feature in the March 2016 company magazine for Kongsberg Gruppen – one of Norway’s oldest and largest companies – delves into the future of 3D printing within the multi- faceted technology manufacturer.

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The article focusses on the in- house 3D printing by the R&D team at Kongsberg Maritime. Using the now defunct 3D Systems Cube Pro, Kongsberg fit and form prototypes. In the article, Alf Pettersen, Technical Manager at Kongsberg Aerostructures reveals a reluctance to invest in a more industrial solution.

“3D printing has come a long way in terms of medical devices and prototypes, but mass production is still a problem. This is because of challenges relating to repetition and quality. It is not good enough in so many areas, particularly in the aviation industry, where there are extremely strict requirements governing quality and the qualification of methods.”

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3D printed body parts are beginning to change our medical industry

3D printing can definitely help to solve some of the problems that we have actually in the medical sector. For example, when a patient needs an organ for a transplant or a new skin tissue to heal an important wound, we have to wait for a donor. Waiting for a donor is a long process, but these patients don’t really have time to waste. That is precisely where the additive manufacturing technology can help them: it can use the patient’s cells to create a functional organ, an organ part or now, even a brand new skin tissue!

This process could really help accident victims and burned patients by providing viable skin grafts. It will be a real time-saving technique, and it will considerably ease the whole process as only one machine will be required. Donors and additional surgeries will not be needed anymore.

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Aerospace giant embraces 3D printing for flight-ready parts

Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group has turned to 3D printing to create flight-ready parts at a fraction of the cost and time involved in using traditional manufacturing methods.

Aerospace giant embraces 3D printing for flight-ready parts

The Cambridge-based firm’s latest innovation programme is pushing technological boundaries to reduce weight and increase performance on its fleet of military, civil and business aircraft.

It originally looked at metal additive manufacturing as a solution before discovering that the quality of Stratasys polymer technology – supplied by SYS Systems – could deliver the quality of materials it needed to satisfy industry regulations.

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Optisys to speak on how Metal 3D Printing will miniaturise satellite antennas

Michael Hollenbeck will show how Metal 3D printing will encourage mass customisation, where the constrained volume in a satellite can be filled with a high-performance antenna that conforms to the space around it and provides lower loss and higher performance.

Michael Hollenbeck, Chief Technology Officer of Optisys, Inc. will speak at Satellite 2019 about Metal 3D printing and how it can help build the smallest and lightest functional antennas in the industry.The presentation will cover how Metal 3D printing will usher in an era of mass customisation, where the constrained volume remaining in a satellite can be filled with a unique high-performance antenna that conforms to the space around it and provides a lower loss, higher performance solution than any competing alternative.

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