Siemens and Sonaca have secured a contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop aerospace design applications for metal additive manufacturing.

Both companies will work on the framework of the Design4AM project to enhance the Siemens Digital Innovation Platform for the industrialisation of additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry.

It integrates generative engineering, topology optimisation, predictive analytics, process simulation, build preparation and production execution.

Sonaca will use its expertise in space applications, manufacturing features, material and process, testing and numerical methods for the chain validation.

The ESA and the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office are providing financial support for the project, which is expected to result in validated process for the design and production of lightweight space parts optimised for performance and cost.

Engineers can explore a range of design concepts in an automated closed-loop process using Siemens’ NX software and Simcenter software. The process considers engineering performance, manufacturing process and operation cost needs.

Sonaca Space BU general manager Pedro Romero Fernandez said: “With our deep aerospace knowledge and Siemens’ software technologies such as generative design, automated topology optimisation and additive manufacturing process simulation, engineers will be able to explore hundreds of design options in a fraction of the normal time, then virtually test them against a variety of physical conditions to arrive at the best design solution for their performance requirements that 3D-print correctly the first time.”

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The Design4AM contract is carried out under the ESA’s general support technology programme.

Siemens said additive manufacturing is a key tool for the space industry due to its ability to meet structural and multi-disciplinary needs for space applications at a much lower weight compared to conventional space structures made via traditional manufacturing methods.

The company noted that additive manufacturing techniques can be utilised to lightweight almost any kind of complex structure in launchers, propulsion, satellites and several spacecraft components.