GKN Aerospace benefits from 3-D printing

Posted on 02 Oct 2018 and read 748 times
GKN Aerospace benefits from 3-D printingGKN Aerospace (www.gkn.com) has been improving production times and removing design constraints for multiple tooling applications since it started to use additive manufacturing at its Filton manufacturing site in the UK.

Tim Hope, manager of the company’s additive manufacturing centre, said it decided to invest in a Stratasys F900 production 3-D printer in a bid to cut lead times for production-line tools, and to create complex parts that could not be made with traditional manufacturing methods.

“Since using the F900, we have dramatically reduced production-line down-time for certain teams, and we 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.

Now, with the ability to use an in-house production 3-D printer to do the same job, the replacement burden has been removed and the responsiveness to manufacturing requirements improved.

“We can now cost-effectively produce tools for our operators within 3hr, saving critical production time; and by printing in engineering-grade thermoplastics, we can produce 3-D printed tools with repeatable and predictable quality every time, all while matching the quality of a traditionally produced tool — and at a lower cost than equivalent metallic tooling.”

While GKN Aerospace is currently using a standard thermoplastic, it is also experimenting with Stratasys’ high-strength heat-resistant ULTEM 1010 resin material — and reporting “unprecedented levels of design freedom”.

Mr Hope said: “One of the key benefits of additive manufacturing is the creative freedom it offers.

“The F900 offers a large build size, allowing us to rapidly produce tools to meet any requirements.

“Indeed, we are 3-D printing previously inconceivable tools — tools that enable us to manufacture complex parts that would be uneconomical or just physically impossible by other methods.”

Mr Hope says he also anticipates a greater move towards the use of FDM additive manufacturing to produce high-value flight-critical end-use composite parts.

“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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