At the tipping point ?

3D Systems’ On Demand Manufacturing in Leuven, Belgium, proves viability of DMP for mission-critical satellite applications with Thales Alenia Space.

In his
best-selling 2000 book, Malcolm Gladwell defines a tipping point as “the moment
of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”

By that
definition, Direct Metal Printing (DMP) is
standing on the precipice, as it moves rapidly from prototyping to production
for mission-critical, risk-averse applications in defence and aerospace, where
nothing is left to chance.

An example
of this mainstream acceptance is a long-term partnership between 3D Systems and
Thales Alenia Space to leverage DMP for aerospace components.

Thales
Alenia Space, based in Toulouse, France, is one of the leading aerospace
suppliers in the world, with revenues topping 2 billion Euros in 2014. The
company has 7,500 employees in eight countries, specializing in space
telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, exploration and orbital
infrastructures.

The 3D
Systems / Thales Alenia Space collaboration is illustrated by the production of
antenna brackets (190 x 230 x 290mm) for a geostationary telecommunications
satellite. Direct Metal Printing is now qualified and fully available for
titanium Thales Alenia Space aerospace applications. Today, for certain
products like the satellites, 80 percent of metal parts are produced using 3D
printing, replacing traditionally manufactured parts.

Quick and
efficient expertise

Thales
Alenia Space worked with the 3D Systems’
On Demand Manufacturing
Solutions team in Belgium to design and print the
Ti6Al4V brackets and guarantee that all quality aspects and tolerances were
met.

On Demand
Manufacturing, a 3D design-to-manufacturing service, is the world’s leading
provider of unique, custom-designed parts, offering instant online quoting,
expertise in 3D design and printing, and proven post-machining support in order
to be able to deliver validated flight parts.

Thales
Alenia Space and On Demand Manufacturing worked together to apply topological
optimization to the 3D printing process following a design for
manufacturability approach. Topological optimization determines the
most-efficient material layout to meet the exact performance specifications of
a part. It takes into consideration the given space allowed, loads that need to
be handled, boundary conditions and other critical engineering factors.

Each of the
four brackets for the satellite required an individualized design, as they are
mounted on the antenna’s reflector edges and screwed onto a shaped surface.

Proving its
worth

The antenna
brackets were produced by On Demand Manufacturing on a beta version of 3D
Systems’ ProX DMP 320 machine. While already in use within 3D Systems
manufacturing services operations in Europe and the United States, the printer
is scheduled to be announced and available for sale to end users at the
International Consumer Electronics Show in January, 2016.

The ProX
DMP 320 is designed for heavy-duty metal parts production. It uses a totally
new architecture that simplifies set-up and provides the versatility to produce
all types of part geometries in titanium (grades 1, 5 and 23), nickel super
alloy and Stainless 316L.

Exchangeable
manufacturing modules deliver increased applications versatility and less
downtime when moving among different part materials. A controlled vacuum build
chamber ensures that every part is printed with proven material properties,
density and chemical purity.

Extremely
low O2 levels in the ProX DMP 320 deliver several key benefits, including
better conservation of powder quality, no micro oxidation of parts during
printing, fewer oxide interstitials during printing, and improved mechanical
properties for O2- sensitive alloys such as titanium.

Better
parts in half the time

The
combination of 3D Systems’ On Demand Manufacturing expertise and the advanced
capabilities of the ProX DMP 320 delivered exactly what Thales Alenia Space
needed in about half the time it would have taken with traditional
manufacturing.

The
DMP-produced titanium brackets are 25-percent lighter than brackets
manufactured by traditional means and feature a better stiffness-to-weight
ratio.

Production costs
have been reduced considerably and total time from order to shipping—including
file preparation, 3D printing, heat treatment, finishing, CNC milling,
quality-control analysis, cleaning and data traceability—was four to five
weeks, compared to 10 weeks using traditional methods.

Accelerating
DMP adoption

Antenna
fixation brackets for satellites is just the beginning of the DMP collaboration
between 3D Systems’ On Demand Manufacturing and Thales Alenia Space. In 2015,
3D Systems produced more than 50 different space components for three Thales
Alenia Space geostationary satcoms. Thales Alenia expects to double the
production in 2016 using DMP from 3D Systems, according to Florent Lebrun, an
additive manufacturing specialist for antenna applications.

The
collaboration between 3D Systems’ On Demand Manufacturing and Thales Alenia
Space is emblematic of the accelerating adoption of DMP by defense and
aerospace organizations worldwide. It appears to be just a matter of time
before DMP takes its mainstream place alongside the traditional metal
manufacturing processes that it complements.

3D Systems Corporation

5 Lynch St, Hawthorn, VIC 3122

https://au.3dsystems.com

+61 3 9819
4422 |
info.asiapac@3dsystems.com

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