Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence division has announced the launch of a new solution in collaboration with Stratasys, a leader in polymer 3D printing systems. This solution will help aircraft manufacturers to improve the reliability and safety of 3D-printed plastic components, and shorten time-to-market.
The virtual engineering and manufacturing support offered by this partnership will enable customers to reduce the design and testing phase, which normally takes two to three years, to a period of six to nine months.
Thanks to this new partnership, users of Stratasys' Ultem 9085 filament can now use Hexagon's Digimat material modeling software to predict the behavior of printed parts. Ultem 9085 filament is used to manufacture aircraft cabin interiors, such as brackets, cable laying elements, covers and duct components. All these parts have to meet stringent requirements, for example in terms of flammability and toxicity, in order to be certified. Airbus has been using FDM technology for these applications since 2014. Some customers also use the material for cabin interiors, such as Diehl Aviation, which used it to make the upper curtain sections separating the different classes in the Airbus A350.
In the aviation sector, material compliance with certification standards is crucial. Ultem 9085 resin is a high-performance retardant thermoplastic with a very good strength-to-weight ratio, excellent heat resistance and very good impact resistance. It also has favorable characteristics in relation to flame, smoke and toxicity (FST) behavior. The material modeling software provides engineers with a validated tool for analyzing the mechanical behavior of this material in a defined product design, when printed with two compatible printers.
With Digimat, engineers are able to predict the behavior of parts made with Ultem 9085 filament, when using approved Stratasys printers. This analysis is made possible by a virtual material model developed jointly by the two companies, through physical testing, which includes detailed information on the material's internal microstructure. The software's process simulation features help manufacturers avoid defects such as warpage delineation on a part, and enable them to analyze print time and material costs for the specific tool paths on these machines that deliver optimum results.
The solution offers a number of advantages for aeronautical engineers:
- Greater assurance - air vehicles have to comply with stringent regulations, and manufacturers have to convince testing bodies and prove a part's behavior. Whereas this used to take years of testing, Digimat's validated analytical system speeds up the process, enabling engineers to reliably predict a part's behavior.
- Faster time-to-market - by improving material performance and reducing the number of iterations of physical prototypes, this solution can dramatically reduce development times and time-to-market for new parts, and therefore air vehicles, accelerating innovation.
- Better understanding - until now, engineers have been unable to understand how material properties apply across tool paths and layers on a complex geometric part. This has led to time-consuming and costly testing processes, the use of datasets based on destructive testing of material samples rather than actual part geometries, and hence uncertainties in material performance. Furthermore, by being able to analyze more iterations of a part more quickly, engineers can better understand market demands.
- Sustainable design - engineers can validate the 3D printing of a part and optimally exploit materials for lighter air or space vehicles.
Guillaume Boisot, Director of the ICME unit within Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence division, states: "The aerospace sector is constantly pushing the boundaries of performance and innovation, but the current reliable performance of 3D printed parts, limits the application of additive manufacturing to highly specialized metal parts. This new partnership with Stratasys will help shorten the design and testing phases, improve understanding of plastics behavior and accelerate innovation in this field."
Scott Sevcik, Vice President of Aerospace at Stratasys, adds: "The dual need to lighten complex parts and manufacture small series, explains why aerospace has favored 3D printing as a manufacturing tool and its head start in the use of this technology. But it also means that it is the first sector to identify the challenges, one of the major ones being to have a set of digital tools to validate the reliability of 3D printed parts. Our partnership with Hexagon is a big step in this direction, as it gives engineers the same upstream design skills for 3D printing as they have for traditional processes."
The virtual engineering solution is now available to users of Digimat material modeling software. Stratasys customers can request access to specific detailed material maps through the system's exchange functionality, and import tool paths directly from Stratasys Insight software.
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