Lufthansa Technik, a subsidiary of the Lufthansa Group providing MRO services for aircrafts, engines and components, and Premium AEROTEC, a global player in the aviation industry, as a part of their joint effort to use additive manufacturing methods for a more cost-efficient aircraft spare parts production, achieved an important milestone of developing the first load-bearing 3D printed metal spare part approved for aerospace use.
The metal component for the IAE-V2500 engine’s anti-icing system developed at Lufthansa Technik’s Additive Manufacturing (AM) Center has now received official aviation certification from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
3D Printed Metal Spare Part
The ‘A-Link’ is the name given to the 3D printed metal spare part. As a result of the approval, Premium AEROTEC will use a 3D printer to manufacture the so-called “A-Link” for Lufthansa Technik at its Varel (Germany) site.
Nine of these A-Links secure a ring-shaped hot air duct in the engine’s inlet cowl, keeping it free of ice during flight operations. However, the vibrations that occur here during operation cause the A-links to wear at their mounting holes, and they are frequently due for replacement after a few years.
The 3D printed metal spare part are made of titanium to withstand temperatures of up to 300 degrees Celsius. Earlier the component was manufactured through a forging process but is now being manufactured using Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF).
The strength of parts produced on 3D printers can vary widely depending on the corresponding additive manufacturing process. To overcome this, Premium AEROTEC ran a large number of “print jobs” with test specimens, with all process-relevant parameters set to constant values. This allowed it to establish a consistent and reliable process and demonstrate that the highest material property requirements are met here as well. The tensile strength of the additively manufactured A-Link is even higher than that of the original part.
As part of the certification process, Lufthansa Technik has expanded its EASA Part 21/J development facility’s expertise to include additively manufactured metal components. Premium AEROTEC’s collaboration with Lufthansa Technik marks a significant milestone in the field of additive manufacturing, as it is the first time the company has supplied printed series components to a customer outside the Airbus Group.
The first 3D printed metal spare part or A-Links from the collaboration will be deployed in the Lufthansa fleet, where long-term experience with the new components will be gained in addition to certification.
“Premium AEROTEC is an international pioneer and technology leader in the additive manufacturing of aerospace components. Our company has already been applying this technology in the series production of complex structural components since 2016. I am very pleased that in cooperation with Lufthansa Technik we can now once again demonstrate our comprehensive expertise in 3D printing.”– Dr. Ulrich Weber, Chief Operating Officer at Premium AEROTEC
According to Soeren Stark, Chief Operating Officer of Lufthansa Technik, “We have been producing components for the aircraft cabin, the vast majority of which are made of plastic, using 3D printing for years. Now we are able to demonstrate that structurally relevant metal parts for use outside the cabin can also be manufactured additively and approved for flight operations. In this way, we have not only achieved a cost saving for the component in question, but also defined and qualified all the necessary processes for the application of this ground-breaking manufacturing method for structurally relevant metal parts.”
However, the first aviation certification of a load-bearing 3D printed metal spare part is only a first step for both partners because its geometry still closely resembles the original part. Future technological advancements will also enable the use of additive manufacturing advantages for targeted geometry optimization. There are no theoretical limits to the shaping of additively manufactured components, allowing them to be produced much more easily and with less material while retaining the same strength and function. Both partners intend to pursue these opportunities in the near future.
About Premium AEROTEC: Premium AEROTEC is a global player in the aviation industry. Its core business is the development and production of aerostructures made of metal and carbon fiber composites.
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