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Hexagon and Stratasys unlock 3D Printed PEKK’s lightweighting potential for aerospace engineers with simulation

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Stratasys 3D Printed PEKK material
Stratasys 3D Printed PEKK material/Source: Lockheed-Martin Orion hatch covers, courtesy of Stratasys Inc.

Hexagon‘s Manufacturing Intelligence division and Stratasys, a leader in polymer 3D printing solutions, collaborated to capture the behaviour of Stratasys’ high-performance, ultra-lightweight 3D printed PEKK materials for their lightweighting potential in aerospace applications using Hexagon’s simulation technology.

Stratasys Antero™ reinforced polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) materials simulations provide customers with unique insight, allowing them to lightweight components and introduce new sustainable aircraft and spacecraft faster.

3D printed plastic parts provide transformative lightweighting for aerospace, lowering energy consumption and expanding the range of new aircraft. When product designers fully utilise the materials and processes, it may also reduce the cost of overengineering, waste, and lead times associated with traditional manufacturing.

However, due to the industry’s safety-critical nature and regulations, the adoption of plastics and additive methods for structural components has been slow. The “missing link” is providing engineering teams with simulation tools to validate that these materials will achieve the required part performance when manufactured, allowing designers to apply these breakthroughs today.

Stratasys 3D Printed PEKK materials

Stratasys 3D printed PEKK materials – the Antero 840CN03 and Antero 800NA – have now been added to Hexagon’s Digimat materials exchange ecosystem, along with associated print process parameters from Stratasys’ aerospace-ready 3D printers, with rigorously validated multi-scale models. Engineers can create digital twins using these detailed proprietary models that accurately predict how parts printed with the selected material and approved aerospace-ready Stratasys printer will perform in a digital reality with real-world use cases and certification tests before any physical prototypes are manufactured.

Hexagon's Digimat Software applications
Digimat Software applications/Source: Hexagon e-Xstream

Digimat software, which was designed to be open, allows manufacturers to design lighter parts that perform similarly to metals while avoiding costly overengineering using their preferred finite element analysis (FEA) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools. Furthermore, companies that use Digimat in conjunction with Hexagon’s MSC Nastran and MSC Apex will have their work certified and documented faster.

AnteroTM materials are already being used at the forefront of aerospace engineering, bringing major innovations to fruition on time, such as Lockheed Martin’s use of Antero 840CN03 to create NASA’s Orion spacecraft docking hatch cover. With these new simulation tools, more product development teams will be able to apply and de-risk Stratasys’ aerospace additive manufacturing solutions by enabling rigorous digital engineering and virtual manufacturing.

“As the aerospace industry continues to push for more sustainable designs, unlocking the lightweighting potential of thermoplastics and 3D printing will be key. By leveraging the power of our simulation technology, manufacturers gain access to proprietary information so their engineers can ‘work the problem’ with reliable information.”

– Aziz Tahiri, vice president of global aerospace and defence for Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division

Tahiri added,  “We’re excited to see how this next chapter with Stratasys will help the industry create lighter, stronger designs in any design engineering tool with more confidence and less cost and help bring next-gen aircraft to market faster.”

Foster Ferguson, aerospace business segment leader, Stratasys, said: “The Antero 840CN03 and Antero 800NA thermoplastics provide unprecedented strength, heat, and chemical resistance. When combined with Hexagon’s simulation insights and actionable data, these 3D printed materials’ ability to replace certain applications of aluminium and steel clearly points to growing use in the aerospace industry. We believe they meet manufacturers’ increasingly complex performance needs, and by combining innovative modelling software with 3D printing, can reduce production timelines from months to days.”

Stratasys and Hexagon have worked together for over a decade to characterise and add several high-performance thermoplastic materials to Hexagon’s Digimat material modelling software, including Ultem™ 9085, Ultem™ 9085 CG, Ultem™ 1010, and Nylon12CF.


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