TWI orders bespoke Trumpf LMD system for manufacturing large aerospace parts

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Independent research organisation TWI has ordered a bespoke TruLaser Cell 7040 machine from Trumpf that has been modified especially for the manufacture of large aerospace parts.

The two entities have worked in close co-operation to deliver the custom system, which has been designed to meet the specific requirements of the Open Architecture Additive Manufacturing (OAAM) project.

The three-year project, which began in January 2018 and is being led by TWI, aims to develop directed energy deposition (DED) additive manufacturing (AM) technologies that can be scaled up to accept multi-metre component sizes for the benefit of UK Aerospace. These new platforms will enable aerospace manufacturers and their supply chains to develop advanced AM manufacturing concepts.

‘The OAAM project will steer the development of large-scale 3D printed aerospace parts, typically aero body and fuselage components, but also engine casings and landing gear parts, for example,’ explained Dr Carl Hauser, section manager for laser additive manufacturing at TWI.

TWI will work with project partners Airbus, Autodesk, Cranfield University, Glenalmond Group, University of Bath, University of Manchester and University of Strathclyde to create three DED AM process platforms.

These new platforms will enable aerospace manufacturers and their supply chains to develop advanced AM manufacturing concepts in the following fields:

  1. Laser-powder / laser-wire AM at TWI (Yorkshire Technology Centre).
  2. Arc-wire / laser-wire AM at Cranfield University.
  3. Electron beam wire AM at TWI (Cambridge).

Custom built

The bespoke machine ordered from Trumpf will be equipped with both disk laser and laser metal deposition (LMD) functionality, enabling it to carry out cutting, welding and additive manufacturing processes. It also includes a number of critical adjustments to the standard version of the Trumpf system that will make it unique and able to meet the demands of the OAAM project. The machine will be delivered with a 3kW disk laser, however TWI also plans to integrate a 5kW disk laser into the machine as well in the future.

For instance, the 1m Z-axis capacity of the standard system will be extended to 1.5m in order to accommodate the large aerospace parts; coupled with a 4m x 2m capacity X-axis and Y-axis. In addition to the machine’s five-axis capability, there will be a fully integrated rotate and tilt table with a 1,500kg load capacity, controlled by special software routines specified by TWI and being developed by Trumpf. This will be further supported by Autodesk, which is developing common CAD/CAM control interfacing across the OAAM DED technologies. The modularity of the TruLaser Cell will also enable TWI to integrate additional process steps (e.g. non-destructive inspection systems) for optimum implementation to aerospace requirements.

TWI has ordered a modified TruLaser Cell 7040 machine from Trumpf for the manufacture of large aerospace parts. (Image: Trumpf)

For the past 15 years TWI has been using several LMD systems on both industrial robot manipulators and a Trumpf DMD 505 gantry-type five-axis cell.

‘Although the Trumpf machine still functions perfectly well, being part of the OAAM project allowed us to consider our options and specify a new high precision system to meet the growing needs of the aerospace industry and of TWI member companies,’ commented Hauser. ‘After an assessment, the decision was made to invest in a new large scale five-axis gantry facility for laser additive manufacturing.

‘The new Trumpf machine will be an integral and critical resource to drive our organisation forward, not just on the OAAM project, but for many years beyond.’

The modified TruLaser Cell 7040 is due to arrive at TWI’s Sheffield facility in the summer.

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