Finland's First 3D Printed Aircraft Engine Part Takes to the Skies in Maiden Flight

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T25 Sensor Housing – first 3D printed component in GE90 jet engine.

One field that 3D printing technology has definitely made a major impact on over the last several years is aerospace – so much so, in fact, that the FAA is currently working to develop a plan on how to deal with the increased rate at which the industry is adopting 3D printing.

The technology is very useful in manufacturing aircraft, as it can reduce the weight of components, as well as producing parts with reduced complexity that offer consistent quality and repeatable characteristics. These features can lower energy expenditures and cost, while also increasing aircraft performance, in the aerospace and defense industry, and a wide variety of aircraft, from drones to jets and rockets, now use 3D printed parts.

Many of these aircraft feature 3D printed engine parts, which can help reduce the total number of pieces that make up the component…which, again, helps with weight reduction. By using 3D printing technology to make the parts for an aircraft engine, companies can also see other benefits as well, including an increase in power and a decrease in fuel burn.

Patria, headquartered in Finland, provides security, defense, and aviation life cycle support services, as well as technology solutions. The company, which is jointly owned by the Norwegian Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS and the Finnish state, operates all over the world, with offices and projects in the US, the UAE, Sweden, South Africa, Poland, Norway, Estonia, and Croatia. It is Finland’s primary source for the maintenance, repair, and over-haul (MRO) of military aircraft engines.

[Image: Patria]

The company’s Aviation and Aerostructures business units have over 90 years of experience in the industry, offering assembly, flight training, maintenance and modifications of aircraft and helicopters, and parts manufacturing. In addition, the units offer life-cycle support services for aircraft and helicopters, which covers engine, equipment, and fuselage repair, along with training and maintenance.

Patria has long been involved in using modern manufacturing methods to fabricate and repair different parts and components for aircraft, and has spent more than two years working on the manufacturing process for a new 3D printed part. That hard work has finally paid off, as the country’s first 3D printed aircraft engine part, installed in the F/A-18 Hornet strike-fighter, recently went on its successful maiden flight.

“For this part, the development work has been done over the last two years, with the aim of exploring the manufacturing process for 3D-printable parts, from drawing board to practical application,” said Ville Ahonen, the Vice President of Patria’s Aviation business unit. “Using 3D printing to make parts enables a faster process from customer need to finished product, as well as the creation of newer, better structures. We will continue research on additive manufacturing methods, with the aim of making the new technology more efficient.”

F/A-18 Hornet [Image: US Navy]

The 3D printed aircraft engine part was fabricated using the Inconel 625 superalloy, which is nickel-based and has been used before to manufacture turbine blades. The company was granted approval from the Military Design Organization Approval (MDOA) and the Finnish Military Aviation Authority (FMAA), in accordance with European Military Aviation Requirements (EMARs), to 3D print the part, which was designed in accordance with the MDOA approval.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

[Source: Patria]

New Zealand research project explores new design directions for future 3D printed prosthetics

Jan 19, 2018 | By David

As the technology progresses, 3D printed prosthetics are becoming more and more advanced and tailored to the needs of specific types of injuries and lifestyles. A team of researchers based in New Zealand have recently launched a major new project to explore some of the future design possibilities for 3D printing in prosthetics, both in the short term and the long term. Led by the New Zealand Artificial Limb Service, in collaboration with the University of Wellington, the research project also explored the potential for these new developments to be implemented into commercial manufacturing.

The project was roughly organized into four parts, each covering a different design direction that prosthetics could head in with the help of 3D printing. In the short term period, the team focused on new functional fairings and new socket designs, possible in the next 12-18 months. As for a longer period, within the next 7-10 years, multi-density foot printing and information-driven model generation were looked at as possibilities.

The functional fairings concept is geared towards finding new practical applications and uses for prosthetics beyond being just replacements for missing limbs. This could improve the lives of many amputees by transforming what is perceived as a loss into the potential for something more, opening up a space with increased creativity and practicality that only these prosthetic users could access. The team suggested a sport fairing, giving the example of a special prosthetic golf leg. This would have a special golf design as well as an area for spare balls and tees to be stored. There could also be special children’s fairings, with creative designs that appeal to their sense of fun and imagination.

As for the new socket designs, these would be adjustable according to size fluctuations at different times, hopefully making it no harder for a user to put on their prosthetic than for someone to put on a shoe. The team reached out to the Auckland Bioengineering Institute to better understand what might soon be possible for this kind of personalization, with the help of 3D printing technology. Soft tissue scanning can generate an accurate volumetric mesh of a patient’s limb, which allows technicians to visualise what areas of the stump are tolerant or sensitive, or what is hard and what is soft. This means that they would have a better representation of how the socket design should be sculpted. Experiments were carried out with ABS as well as the more advanced TPU material, with the latter being more promising in terms of material properties but coming with an inconveniently long post-processing time.

For the long term, ways to more cheaply produce multi-density foot prosthetics, which are currently prohibitively expensive, were explored. One of 3D printing’s advantages is the way that fill densities can be varied to match desired object performance. This is useful for making prosthetics that are simultaneously stronger and more flexible. To explain this, the team quotes a MIT student talking about the properties of natural structures: “Nature always uses graded materials. Bone, for example, consists of a hard, dense outer shell, and an interior of spongy material. It gives you a high strength-to-weight ratio.’’

There are a number of multi-density 3D printing systems used in other sectors, and the NZALS’ future approaches could take inspiration from these, such as Nervous Systems 3D printed midsole technology for New Balance, or Materialise’s similar system, which is used by Adidas. 3D printed TPU would be the way to go for multi-density prosthetics, and hopefully the technology will advance to make it easier to print with this material in future.

The future of information-driven model generation for prosthetics should see the implementation of the aforementioned soft tissue scanning, as well as what is known as Computational Anatomical Movement. This makes use of scanning, tracking and video analysis so that researchers can examine the force of each muscle, as well as the gait that a particular patient is taking and various other human body movement factors, in order to create a more personalized prosthetic with improved comfort and performance.

The researchers tested out the Stratasys Fortus as well as the UpBox FDM machines, finding pros and cons with each. They concluded that the best solution would be to use an online 3D printing service, which could provide more efficient printing with its specialized expertise and access to a variety of technologies. Shapeways, I.Materialise, and Objective 3D were also suggested as options.

According to NZALS chief executive Sean Gray, New Zealanders are great guinea pigs for developments in prosthesis technology, because they tend to test their limbs to the limits.”People have broken them because they have had them in a ski boot.”, he says. The work carried out by NZALS in collaboration with the University of Wellington and other institutions shows serious promise, and should soon lead to significant improvements in quality of life for amputees there and further afield.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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Partially 3D Printed adidas Futurecraft 4D Shoes Launch Commercially This Week in NYC

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The latest announcement from adidas is both exciting and highly anticipated, since they have been a forerunner (yes, we had to say it!) in using 3D printing technology—and forging ahead into the 4D—for quite some time now. Where to start? From announcing their intentions to begin using 3D printing technology in their factories in 2015, the premium footwear manufacturer has also featured sneakers made from recycled ocean waste with 3D printed prototypes, produced 3D printed limited editions, and more. Their highest-visibility project was announced in April 2017, as adidas announced a partnership with Carbon for scale production of high-performance running shoes.

Now, adidas has finally, officially announced the commercial release of their Futurecraft 4D. The midsoles are made using Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology, using light and oxygen. While their prototype for the new shoes has been out since last spring, and seen on the feet of the Carbon team at events from RAPID to TCT Show, they will be launching the line in New York on January 18th.

Consortium retailers like KITH, Packer, and SNS will participate in marketing the innovative running shoes which offer ‘precisely engineered zones’ for athletes, providing not only comfort and cushioning, but also stability and propulsion.

Adidas is touting their new product as the ‘ultimate running shoe for all,’ created based on 17 years of research and development. Each midsole contains 20,000 struts, with the 4D element coming into play as they can be geared toward the individual and ‘tuned’ to requirements needed at the time.

In the heel, the wearer has the advantage of lattice geometry for cushioning and impact control. The transition zone offers improved transition for heel to toe movement, and the forefoot zone allows the runner to move forward better. The open structure also means better ‘breathability,’ coupled with a primeknit upper for a fit similar to that of a sock. The goal in creating these new shoes was to see that every athlete can perform to their potential, empowered with superior footwear as their greatest tool—next to the power of their own drive, stamina, and discipline.

“FUTURECRAFT 4D demonstrates the potential of Digital Light Synthesis in unlocking a new era in sport performance design. One driven by athlete data and incomparable precision to provide the best for the athletes, enabling them to make a difference in their run,” stated Ben Herath, VP Design for adidas Running. “This innovation changes how we design and free ourselves from limitations of the past. The possibilities of what we can now create with this technology to push the boundaries of performance is truly endless.”

This new shoe, which adidas expects to reshape the footwear industry, is priced at $300, as 3D printing continues to allow for personalization in footwear.

Have you been waiting for this new product to finally come on the market for sale to the public? Find out more about FUTURECRAFT 4D here. They can also be followed on Instagram and Twitter via #futurecraft.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

[Images: adidas]

Aluminum No Match For 3D Printed Press Brake Dies

If you’re looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, you can scratch “Doing small-scale manufacturing of ultralight aircraft” off your list right now. Turns out there’s no money in it. At least, not enough money that you can outsource production of all the parts. Not even enough to setup a huge shop full of customized machining tools when you realize you have to make the stuff yourself. No, this sounds like one of those “labors of love” we always hear so much about.

So how does one do in-house manufacturing of aircraft with a bare minimum of tools? Well, since you’re reading this on Hackaday you can probably guess that you’ve got to come up with something a bit unorthodox. When [Brian Carpenter] of Rainbow Aviation needed a very specific die to bend a component for their aircraft, he decided to try designing and 3D printing one himself.

Printing a die on the Zortrax M200

He reasoned that since he had made quick and dirty dies out of wood in the past, that a 3D printed one should work for at least a few bends before falling apart. He even planned to use JB Weld to fill in the parts of the printed die which he assumed would start cracking and breaking off after he put it through a few cycles. But even after bending hundreds of parts, wear on the dies appears to be nearly non-existent. As an added bonus, the printed plastic dies don’t mar the aluminum pieces they are bending like the steel dies do.

So what’s the secret to printing a die that can bend hundreds of pieces of aluminum on a 20 ton brake without wearing down? As it turns out…not a whole lot. [Brian] attributes the success of this experiment to designing the die with sufficiently accurate tolerances and having so high of an infill that it may as well be solid plastic.

In fact, the 3D printed die worked out so well that they’ve now expanded the idea to a cheap Harbor Freight brake. Before this tool was going more or less unused as it didn’t have features they needed for the production of their parts, namely a radius die or backstop. But by 3D printing these components [Brian] was able to put the tool back to work.

We’ve previously covered the art and science of bending sheet metal, as well as a homebuilt brake that let’s you do it on a budget even Rainbow Aviation would scoff at. So what are you waiting for? Go build an airplane.

Thanks to [Oahupilot] for the tip.