GKN Aerospace cuts assembly tool production time with 3D printing
GKN Aerospace is improving production times and lowering design constraints for multiple tooling applications by using additive manufacturing at its Filton manufacturing site in the UK. It also reports slashing waste levels by 40%.
According to Tim Hope, Additive Manufacturing Center Manager at GKN Aerospace, the company invested in a Stratasys F900 Production 3D Printer to cut lead times for production-line tools, and to create complex parts which are impossible to make with traditional manufacturing methods.
GKN serves over 90% of the world’s aircraft and engine manufacturers with aerostructures, engine systems and technologies.
Hope said: “Since integrating the F900, we have dramatically reduced production-line downtime for certain teams and are enjoying a new-found freedom to design complex tools.”
Traditionally, the lead-time required to produce a metal or plastic replacement tool is several weeks.
“We can now cost-effectively produce tools for our operators within three hours,” Hope said. “This saves critical production time, and by printing in engineering-grade thermoplastics, we can produce 3D-printed tools with repeatable, predictable quality every time. All while matching the quality of a traditionally produced tool, and reducing the costs and concessions compared to equivalent metallic tooling.”
While GKN Aerospace is using a standard thermoplastic today, it is experimenting with Stratasys’ high-strength, heat-resistant ULTEM 1010 Resin material for these applications.
GKN Aerospace is also reporting new levels of design freedom.
“One of the key benefits of additive manufacturing is the creative freedom this technology affords users,” Hope said. “The F900 offers the largest build-size of any FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) 3D printer, enabling us to rapidly produce tools to meet any requirements. Most notably, complex geometries and cavities that would otherwise be problematic are now practical with the F900. We’re utilising it to design, and 3D print, previously inconceivable tools that enable us to manufacture complex parts that are uneconomical or just physically impossible by other methods.”
Further, GKN Aerospace says it has seen a 40% decrease in material waste.
Hope says he anticipates a greater move towards the use of FDM additive manufacturing to produce high-value, flight-critical, end-use composite parts.
He says. “GKN Aerospace’s product range is vast, and we see large-scale FDM and carbon-reinforced parts as the future of additive manufacturing in aerospace.”
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