Material properties of 3D printed aircraft parts exceeds those of die cast parts

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The selective laser melting process (Image: SLM Solutions)

Honeywell Aerospace and SLM Solutions have developed parameter sets for a new aluminium alloy that can be used to produce aircraft parts with considerably improved material properties than those produced using conventional die casting.

The work between the two firms, which began last year, aims to reduce manufacturing times and costs to produce 3D printed aircraft components by using larger layer thicknesses during additive manufacturing.

The new alloy, F357, is a new beryllium-free version of AlSi7Mg0,6 (A357). It is not only lightweight but offers a significantly better corrosion resistance and desired mechanical properties, such as high-strength across a wide temperature range, in comparison to conventional aluminium alloys. 

F357 has great weldability and excellent suitability for post-processing, such as mechanical machining or electrochemical processes such as anodizing. This combination of properties enables F357 to be perfectly suited for thin walled and complex structures in, for example, the aerospace or automotive industry.

Honeywell began qualification efforts for aluminium builds using an increased layer thickness of 60µm and 90µm on its quad-laser SLM 500 selective laser melting machine. SLM Solutions provided generic aluminium parameter sets for Honeywell to complete material qualification to achieve optimal material properties.

High layer thicknesses lead to higher productivity and increased build rates. (Image: SLM Solutions)

The development of these new parameter sets for F357 using a layer thickness of 60µm and 700W lasers has now reached an important milestone. Material properties have significantly increased in comparison to conventional die-cast parts and are now exceeding overall acknowledged metallic properties for aerospace.

Dr Sören Wiener, senior director technology and advanced operations at Honeywell Aerospace, remarked that the open architecture and flexibility of the SLM 500 machine was particularly useful for developing the new parameter sets.

The SLM 500 selective laser melting machine was used to develop the new parameter sets. (Image: SLM Solutions)

‘With this open access strategy and the great support of SLM Solutions, we step forward to achieving our next goals,’ he said.

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