AEROSPACE GLOBAL NEWS

French Aerospace Manufacturer Latécoère Enhances Operational Efficiency using AM

3D Printed Camera Case for Airbus A380

Stratasys announced in a recent press release that Latécoère – the French aircraft design and structure manufacturing services group, is deploying Stratasys’ Fortus 450mc 3D Printer into its design and manufacturing process for design validation and functional testing of prototypes and exploring the potential of 3D printing.

Incorporation Strategy

Since Latécoère is a design and manufacturing service provider, it is constantly innovating and challenging the existing norms set by the industry. But it regularly faced basic problems like lengthy lead times, high prototyping, and tooling costs. In order to break these shackles, it needed a new technological support which they found in additive manufacturing. By incorporating the Stratasys Fortus 450mc FDM 3D Printer into its process Latécoère was able to experience the real power of rapid prototyping and tooling. According to Latécoère’s Composite and Additive Manufacturing Manager, Simon Rieu, “The adoption of this technology has been transformational for both design and manufacturing. He further adds that “Additive manufacturing has integrated seamlessly into our design and production process, and has seen us enjoy improved lead-times, reduced costs, and enhanced operational efficiency.”

3D printed tool used to install wiring in Airbus A380 camera case,
Above: 3D printed tool used to install wiring in Airbus A380 camera case, produced using Stratasys’s FDM 3D Printer/Image Credit: Business Wire

As per Simon Rieu, the aerospace industry is becoming more demanding and extremely dynamic, and Latécoère also has to maintain its competitive edge, and the additive manufacturing technology fits perfectly into its requirements.

Enhancing Operational Efficiency

Latécoère has been developing prototypes for as long as it has been in operation. It is an important part of its product development cycle. But before 3D printing, the company used traditional methods like CNC machining for building the prototypes. These prototypes were made from sheet metal and had to be made with as many design iterations as needed which in turn proved costly. Secondly, the lead time was close to close to six weeks which meant delays in testing & product development.

3D Printed Camera Case for Airbus A380
Above: 3D Printed Camera Case for Airbus A380/Image Credit: Business Wire

Recently, the company 3D printed a camera case for Airbus A380 for validating the design and functional testing of the part. Prior to 3D printing, this would have cost the company much more but by integrating the Stratasys Fortus 450mc 3D Printer into the system, such prototypes can now be developed within a few days, a reduction of nearly 95%, with no restrictions on the number of iterations. The part is now manufactured from ULTEM 9085 material which is 50% lighter than the aluminium used previously. This benefit gives more freedom to the designers to work with.

Simon Rieu explains this benefit by saying that, “With our 3D printer, we can also optimize the geometry of the tool to perfectly fit the part – making the operator’s job much easier. Not only has this accelerated our production process dramatically, but I also estimate that we’ve reduced our tool production costs by a massive 40%.”

Looking Ahead

Looking Ahead, Latécoère wants to print the parts for direct use in aircrafts. The company is exploring the 3D printing potential and going forward they want to include 3D printing into its workflow. Using Stratasys’s lightweight and Fire, Smoke and Toxicity (FST) compliant materials, Latécoère has printed numerous models which have reduced weight and reduced the production lead times.

Andy Middleton of Stratasys summarizes, “Latécoère, like many of our aerospace customers, are benefiting from our proven FDM technology and high-performance materials for this industry. Whether it’s accelerating design validation or the on-demand production of lightweight manufacturing tools, we are committed to ensuring our customers are given the right tools to optimize the use of additive manufacturing.”

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