Applications in Manufacturing and Tooling

Direct Soft Tooling

This is where the mold tool is created directly by fast prototyping systems. These methods may be used for liquid metal sand casting in which the mold is broken by a single casting.

Indirect Soft Tooling

In this fast tooling process, a master pattern is first created using rapid prototyping. Using the master design, the molding tooling can be made from a range of materials such as silicone rubber, epoxy resin, low melting point metals, and ceramics.

Direct Hard Tooling

Hard tools produced by rapid prototyping systems have been a major research area in recent years. The main advantage of hard tooling produced by rapid prototyping methods is a fast turnaround time to create highly complex molding tools for high- volume production. The rapid response to changes in standardized designs can be almost instant.

Indirect Hard Tooling

Indirect hard tooling approaches use fast prototyping aid in a variety of ways. Many of these processes remain largely similar in nature, with the exception of small differences in the binding system formulations or the type of system used. Processes include the rapid solidification process (RSP). Indirect methods for manufacturing hard tools for plastic injection molding include using liquid metal casting or steel powders in a binder system.

Aerospace Industry

3D-printing technology provides unparalleled versatility in product design and development. 3D-printing technology in the aerospace industry has the ability to manufacture lightweight components, enhanced and complex geometries which can reduce energy requirements and resources. At the same time, it can lead to fuel savings using 3D-printing technology, as it will reduce the material used to manufacture aerospace components. In addition, 3D-printing technology has been commonly used in the manufacture of spare parts for some aerospace products, such as engines. The engine part is easily damaged, requiring regular replacement. 3D-printing technology is also a good option for the production of these spare parts. In the aerospace industry, nickel-based alloys are preferred due to their tensile properties, oxidation/ corrosion resistance, and damage tolerance (Figure 7.1).

The aerospace and defense (A&D) industry was one of the first to embrace 3D printing, with the first application of technology dating back to 1989. Now, three decades later, A&D represents 12% of the $7 billion additive manufacturing market and contributes heavily to ongoing research efforts within the industry.

The advancement of AM within A&D is largely driven by key industry players, including GE, Airbus, Boeing, Safran, and GKN. Such businesses and others have described the value proposition that 3D printing brings to:

  • • Functional prototypes
  • • Tooling
  • • Lightweight components

As we can see, aerospace 3D printing is not limited to prototypes. Actual, functional components are often printed in 3D and used in aviation. Examples of components that can be produced with 3D printing include air ducts (SLS), wall panels (FDM), and components of structural metal (DMLS, EBM, DED).

D-printed aerospace parts

FIGURE 7.1 3D-printed aerospace parts.

 
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