Airbus begins series production of 3D printed titanium parts

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The Airbus subsidiary, Premium Aerotec, has started series production of 3D-printed titanium parts for Airbus aircraft at its Varel site, near Friesland, Germany.

According to Peter Sander, Airbus’s head of emerging technologies and concepts, Airbus is planning to print one tonne of metal powder a month in 2018.

The factory in Varel, which was built specifically for additively manufacturing metal parts, opened in January 2016. It includes additive machines from Concept Laser – Airbus, Concept Laser and Laser Zentrum Nord were nominated for a 2015 German Future Prize for work on 3D printing in civil aircraft construction.

Series production at the site began with a double-walled pipe elbow, part of the fuel system of the A400M transport aircraft. These complex components were previously produced from individual cast parts which were then welded together to form one assembly.

In the facility, two M2 Cusing Multilaser machines and one X line 1000R machine from Concept Laser produce 3D parts via the company’s LaserCusing process.

‘By the middle of 2016, another X line 2000R will be added. It features what is currently the world’s largest build envelope (800 x 400 x 500mm) in the field of powder-bed-based laser melting and is also equipped with 2 x 1,000W lasers,’ said Gerd Weber, site manager in Varel.

Premium Aerotec has signed a cooperation agreement with Concept Laser as its premium supplier for machinery and plant technology. The core aspects of the working relationship include: further industrialisation of the laser melting process for applications in aviation; further development of the plant and process technology and the QA systems; and the qualification of new powder alloys.

Frank Herzog, CEO and president of Concept Laser, commented: ‘This cooperation marks an important milestone for the industrialisation of 3D metal printing in aircraft construction and undoubtedly also sends a signal to other industries.’

He added: ‘The implementation of the Industry 4.0 concept in the form of digitisation, automation and the interlinking of any number of machines are an integral part of our AM Factory of Tomorrow, which was presented at the end of last year.’

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