Steel bracket

Airbus Group Innovations and EOS have teamed-up to conduct an aerospace sustainability study into industrial 3D printing.

The partnership is aimed at completing an environmental lifecycle comparison of two production technologies, rapid investment casting and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

This eco-assessment on an Airbus A320 nacelle hinge bracket included detailed aspects of the complete lifecycle, including the supplier of the raw powder metal, the equipment manufacturer and the end-user.

The testing has been adapted from the aircraft maker’s streamlined lifecycle assessment (SLCA) and ISO 14040 series requirements data. It will serve as the basis for the future ‘cradle-to-cradle’ study into other aerospace parts, processes and end-of-life strategies.

EOS environmental and sustainability consultant Nicola Knoch said that the company has worked in a bold, new collaboration with Airbus Group Innovations on integrating business and ecological sustainability from sourcing through to product development.

"There is now a valuable, holistic baseline established on our technology regarding the measurable costs, benefits and impacts of DMLS," Knoch said. "This sets the groundwork for future technology developments in additive manufacturing and further studies."

The SLCA was initially conducted on a generic bracket benchmarking the DMLS process with a traditional casting process used as the baseline.

"This sets the groundwork for future technology developments in additive manufacturing and further studies."

The study compared lifecycle of a steel bracket (casting process) with the lifecycle of a design-optimised titanium bracket (DMLS).

Results showed that using DMLS will lower energy consumption, carbon emissions, as well as reduce the weight per plane by 10kg.

The second phase of the analysis focused on the manufacturing process for the design-optimised bracket using titanium as an ideal, common material, benchmarking the manufacturing process of investment casting against that of DMLS through the EOSINT M 280 system.

In the results of this phase, the total energy consumption for creating the initial raw powder metal, then producing the bracket in DMLS, was lower than the equivalent cast process steps.

The DMLS process itself used the material actually required to make the component, eliminating waste from secondary machining and lowering consumption of titanium by 25% over the cast application.

Image: Conventional design of the steel cast bracket (left) that was eco-assessed against the corresponding topology-optimised design of the EOS titanium AM-made bracket. Photo: courtesy of Airbus Group Innovations.

Defence Technology