VELO3D and Honeywell to qualify Sapphire 3D printer for aerospace

VELO3D, a Californian metal 3D printer manufacturer, has announced a partnership with Honeywell Aerospace to qualify VELO3D’s Sapphire 3D printer for use in the production of components for aerospace applications.

The qualification process will determine the viability of the Sapphire 3D printer as a manufacturing system for 3D printing aircraft components. As the aerospace division of multinational manufacturing conglomerate Honeywell, Honeywell Aerospace will carry out the qualification process at its global headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. 

“We are qualifying VELO3D’s Sapphire system with the aim of printing geometries that can’t be fabricated on existing 3D metal printers,” comments Dr. Söeren Wiener, senior director of technology and advanced operations for Honeywell Aerospace.

“Their technology will help Honeywell develop new production-part applications while also meeting our material requirements for qualification.”

Support free metal 3D printed parts.. Photo via VELO3D.
Support free metal 3D printed parts.. Photo via VELO3D.

Additive manufacturing at Honeywell

Founded in 1906, Honeywell focuses its activities on commercial and consumer products, engineering services and aerospace systems. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, the company has a global workforce of approximately 110,000, with approximately 44,000 employed in the U.S.

The firm operates through four business units: Honeywell Aerospace, Honeywell Building Technologies, Safety and Productivity Solutions (SPS), and Performance Materials and Technologies (PMT). Through these segments, Honeywell offers a number of products and services. In 3D printing, Honeywell is collaborating with the likes of German metal 3D printer manufacturer SLM Solutions to qualify new additive manufacturing parameters that enable printing at increased thicknesses. 

The Honeywell Aerospace division has been a significant outlet for the company’s activities in additive manufacturing as well. In addition to the new partnership with VELO3D, Honeywell Aerospace is also collaborating with Sintavia, a Florida-based metal 3D printing service, to manufacture its components using powder bed fusion technology. Honeywell Aerospace has also entered into 3D printing R&D contracts with the likes of Sigma Labs and 3D Systems

A Honeywell Aerospace test flight at the Paris Air Show. Photo via Honeywell Aerospace.
A Honeywell Aerospace test flight at the Paris Air Show. Photo via Honeywell Aerospace.

Qualifying the Sapphire 3D printer

Released in 2018, the Sapphire 3D printer is a laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) 3D printer designed for high volume manufacturing with a 315mm diameter by 400mm height build envelope. It enables engineers to produce parts with overhangs lower than 10°, and large inner diameters without supports. The system has attracted a number of customers from the aerospace sector since its commercial launch, including a recent order of seven Sapphire 3D printers from an unknown aerospace manufacturer.

Honeywell Aerospace selected VELO3D’s Sapphire 3D printer for qualification as the system is capable of manufacturing complex geometries without necessitating the use of support structures. As such, the company sees the potential for advantages in time, cost and quality when 3D printing aircraft components. 

The VELO3D Sapphire System. Photo via VELO3D.
The VELO3D Sapphire System. Photo via VELO3D.

The qualification process at Honeywell Aerospace’s Phoenix facility is already underway, focusing primarily on manufacturing parts in Inconel. As part of the partnership, VELO3D will be providing parameter sets for Honeywell Aerospace to complete material qualification with the Sapphire system, in order to achieve optimal material properties for processing Inconel. Honeywell will perform repeatability testing using the 3D printer in order to create an acceptable set of material property data and qualify the aircraft components.  It is expected that the qualification process will be completed by Q3 2020. 

“The geometric enablement we are able to offer customers like Honeywell Aerospace allows them to print what used to be ‘impossible parts’ and, yet, do it with a strong business case of improved cost and better quality,” states Benny Buller, founder, and CEO of VELO3D. “We are excited to partner with Honeywell to demonstrate that 3D metal printing is a viable production manufacturing method for a wider range of end-use applications.”

The nominations for the 2020 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open. Who do you think should make the shortlists for this year’s show? Have your say now. 

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Featured image shows support free metal 3D printed parts.. Photo via VELO3D.