Aerospace

IRT Saint-Exupéry to begin testing phase of €4.2M hybrid additive manufacturing program

Since March 2018 IRT Saint-Exupéry, Toulouse’s specialist aeronautics and space research institute, has been working on the Metallic Advanced Material for Aeronautics, or MAMA, project. Taking a hybrid approach between traditional forging/stamping and additive manufacturing, the project includes the collaboration of Airbus, Aubert & Duval, LGP de l’Enit (The Laboratory of Production Engineering) and EBAM 3D printer manufacturer Sciaky.

Now the team is approximately a third of the way through the four year undertaking is has announced that MAMA is due to enter testing phases in September 2019.

A coin stamped on a 40,000-tonne experimental press at Aubert & Duval in Pamiers, developed as part of the MAMA project. Photo via Aubert and Duval / Michel Labelle
A coin stamped on a 40,000-tonne experimental press at Aubert & Duval in Pamiers, developed as part of the MAMA project. Photo via Aubert & Duval / Michel Labelle

Reducing the cost of titanium parts for aerospace

The most recent update on MAMA project progress was given at the 2019 World Titanium Conference held this week in Nantes, France. Stéphane Hollard, Head of Metals at Aubert & Duval, is MAMA project manager. At the conference, Hollard described the project’s objective as “to contribute to a significant reduction in the production costs of titanium aeronautical structures parts by developing our historical “forging / stamping transformation process [and] coupling it with additive manufacturing.”

The additive manufacturing process used in this project is Sciaky’s Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM).

MAMA project partner Airbus has had its own Sciaky EBAM 110 system in operation since December 2016, at which time it was used to build an upper spar part for an airplane wing. This machine was sold to the company by Lyonnaise additive manufacturing services and systems provider x3D Group.

An EBAM®110 Metal 3D Printing System from Sciaky. Photo via Sciaky.
An EBAM®110 Metal 3D Printing System from Sciaky. Photo via Sciaky.

Specifically, MAMA focuses on reducing the Buy-to-Fly ratio of Ti6-4 parts. Overall, Aubert & Duval is hoping to reduce the recurring cost of these forged parts by 40%. The project has a budget of €4.2 million (approximately $4.7 million) to achieve this goal, with 50% provided by industry, 50% by public authorities. €1.5 million (approximately $1.7 million) of the budget has been allocated to the implentation of a new experimental press at Aubert & Duval in Pamier. This press is expected to be operational by September 2019 at which point the team will be able to start the project’s testing phases.

Airbus and Aubert & Duval in additive manufacturing 

Seeing the value of the technology, Airbus is implementing both metal and polymer additive manufacturing methods across many different business areas. Since 2016, Stratasys’ ULTEM material has been standardized for use inside Airbus aircraft. It has 3D printable scandium alloy producer APWORKS as part of its portfolio of companies, and the company has also been helping to qualify industrial 3D printers for used in the aerospace industry. Still, these partnerships barely scratch the surface of Airbus’ additive activity.

Aubert & Duval has also done a considerable amount of work with the technology, most recently signing an exclusive powder production agreement with Canadian gas plasma atomization specialist PyroGenesis.

More details of MAMA are expected to be announced next week at the 2019 International Paris Airshow.

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Featured image shows Sciaky EBAM process. Clip via Sciaky on YouTube