Latécoère cuts lead times by 95% with switch to 3D printing

Latécoère, a French aerospace manufacturer that makes parts for the likes of Airbus, Bombardier and Dassault Systèmes has embraced Stratasys FDM 3D printing in its design and production process.

In doing so, Latécoère has seen a significant reduction in lead times for prototypes, a reduction in custom tooling times from six weeks to two days, and a slashing of tooling costs by 40%.

3D printed camera case prototype for the Airbus A380, produced on Stratasys' Fortus 450mc. Photo via Latécoère.
3D printed camera case prototype for the Airbus A380, produced on Stratasys’ Fortus 450mc. Photo via Latécoère.

Prototyping lead times down

Latécoère 3D printed a prototype for a part in the interior lining of an aircraft door, in order to verify its fit and function.

“Previously, this would have been made from sheet metal” explained Simon Rieu, Composite and Additive Manufacturing Manager at Latécoère’s R&D and Innovation Cente, admitting that the process was extremely time-consuming.

“With our Fortus 450mc 3D Printer, we produced a fully-functional prototype in two days, reducing our lead times by a staggering 95%.”

Latécoère also 3D printed a prototype camera case for the Airbus A380 aircraft using ULTEM 9085 resin-based FDM material. The resulting part was both cheaper and 50% lighter than its Aluminium alternative.

The rapid turnaround in prototypes importantly allowed Latécoère to accelerate its validation process before any commitment to making tools for adjustments.

Tooling costs down 

Another area where 3D printing has taken the place of sheet metal manufacturing and CNC milling is in customized production tools, producing parts that are an estimated 40% cheaper in just two days (down from six weeks).

“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,” added Rieu.

3D printed tool used to install wiring in Airbus A380 camera case, produced using Stratasys' Fortus 450mc. Photo via Latécoère.
3D printed tool used to install wiring in Airbus A380 camera case, produced using Stratasys’ Fortus 450mc. Photo via Latécoère.

End-use parts are in sight

Latécoère joins Airbus in using parts and tooling 3D printed from ULTEM 9085. application of 3D printed parts in aerospace is set to grow, according to Greg Reynolds, VP of additive manufacturing at Stratasys direct, writing for 3D Printing Industry’s future of 3D printing series. 

Latécoère is already 3D printing some air duct housing components and will make more end-use aerospace parts following certification.

“Whether it’s accelerating design validation or the on-demand production of lightweight manufacturing tools, or even 3D printed interior aircraft parts, we are committed to ensuring our customers are given the right tools to optimize the use of additive manufacturing,” said Andy Middleton, President of EMEA at Stratasys.

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Featured image shows a Latécoère engineer at a factory in Hermosillo, Mexico. Photo via Latécoère.

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