CRP Technology and PoliMi 3D team up to 3D print wind tunnel model parts

Award winning 3D materials manufacturer CRP Technology has collaborated with the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology of the Politecnico di Milano (PoliMi) to construct wind tunnel aero-elastic demonstrators.

Founded in 1970, CRP Technology together with CRP USA, CRP Meccanica, and electric motorbike manufacturer, Energica, comprise the CRP Group Network. The original company began as a mechanical engineering firm which produced parts for the motorsports industry.

CRP’s additive manufacturing portfolio includes a range of 3D printing materials and its Rapid Prototyping Department houses more than twenty-five 3D printers from 3D Systems, RICOH, and other industrial manufacturers.

Aeroelastic wind-tunnel demonstrator. Photo via PoliMi

As part of the partnership, CRP has provided its 3D printing expertise and own brand composite material to support PoliMi’s “Aeroelastic Flutter Suppression (AFS)” and “GLAMOUR” projects.

The AFS project is designed to test different active control system technologies aiming to attain Active Flutter Suppression. The GLAMOUR project is focused on technological optimization and experimental validation of Gust Load Alleviation (GLA) control systems for an advanced Green Regional Aircraft manufactured by Leonardo Aircraft Division. In essence, these projects seek to test the performance of different types of aircraft wings, tails and fuselages.  

3D printing with Windform

To develop windtunnel parts with PoliMi, CRP used selective laser sintering (SLS) and Carbon-composite Windform XT 2.0 material.

Windform is an ISO 9001:2015 certified SLS 3D printing material ideal for functional prototyping. Since the introduction of the Windform brand, seven variations of the material have been released, six of which are polyamide-based and one is an elastomer. These materials feature high heat deflection and stiffness, thus, are capable of withstanding the aerodynamic loads simulated during wind tunnel testing.

The Windform range has been used to make Italy’s first electric motorcycle and TuPOD, the first fully 3D printed satellite and has already been used to 3D print multiple parts for a wind tunnel model of the tiltrotor AW609 aircraft.

3D printed aerodynamic wing during assembly phase, GLAMOUR project. Photo via PoliMi

3D printing aerodynamic parts  

Prior to 3D printing, the aerodynamic sections of the wings were produced by carbon or glass fiber fabrics dry lamination, which were wrapped Styrofoam blocks suitably cut to match the wing’s shape. This manufacturing process required much longer times and yielded lower quality surface finish.

3D printing these parts increased production speed and optimized the internal shape of these aerodynamic sections, making them lighter and stiffer. Indeed, when designing aircraft components, aerodynamic features are crucial, as they help to reduce drag on the aircraft and enable faster speeds and efficiency.

Other additive manufacturing companies have also created parts specifically for wind tunnel tests, such as Royal DSM, a Dutch multinational health and materials company. Last year the company launched two new materials for 3D printed automotive parts, specifically adapted to wind tunnel testing.

The 3D printed aerodynamic sections have successfully passed the control and testing criteria, and has fully complied with the requests and PoliMi’s standards.

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Featured image shows the Aeroelastic wind tunnel demonstrator. Photo via PoliMi