Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence division announced the launch of a new solution in collaboration with Stratasys, a leader in polymer 3D printing systems. This will help aircraft manufacturers on the one hand to make the performance and safety of 3D printed plastic components more reliable and on the other hand to shorten the time to market.
The virtual engineering and manufacturing support offered by this partnership will allow customers to reduce the design and testing phase, which in principle lasts 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, overlays and duct components. All these parts must meet stringent requirements, for example flammability and toxicity, to be certified. Airbus has been using FDM technology in these applications since 2014. Some customers also use this material for cabin interiors, such as Diehl Aviation, which used it to make the upper curtain parts separating the different classes in the Airbus A350.
In the aviation sector, the compliance of materials with certification standards is crucial. Ultem 9085 resin is a high-performance retardant thermoplastic with a very good robustness/weight ratio, excellent heat resistance and very good impact resistance. It also has favorable characteristics in relation to flame, smoke and toxicity behaviour (FST). The material modeling software provides engineers with a validated work tool for analyzing the mechanical behavior of this material in a defined product design, when printing 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 thanks to a virtual material model developed jointly by the two companies, through physical tests, which includes detailed information on the internal microstructure of the material. The software's process simulation features help manufacturers avoid defects like warping delineation of a part, and allow them to analyze print time and material costs for the specific toolpaths of these machines that provide an optimal result.
The solution offers a number of advantages to aeronautical engineers:
- Greater insurance – the air vehicle must comply with strict regulations, and manufacturers must convince the control bodies and prove the behavior of a part. While it used to take years of testing to achieve this, Digimat's validated analytical system speeds up the process and allows engineers to reliably predict the behavior of a part.
- Faster time to market – by improving material performance and reducing the number of iterations of physical prototypes, this solution can significantly reduce development times and time-to-market for new parts and therefore aerial vehicles, by accelerating innovation.
- Better understanding – so far, engineers have not been able to understand how material properties apply over toolpaths and layers on a complex geometric part. This resulted in time-consuming and expensive testing processes, the use of datasets based on destructive testing of material samples rather than actual part geometries, and thus uncertainties about material performance. In addition, by having the ability to analyze more iterations of a part faster, 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 in Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence division, said: "The aerospace industry is constantly pushing the boundaries of performance and innovation, but the current reliability of the 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 plastic behavior and accelerate innovation in this area. »
Scott Sevcik, Vice President of Aerospace at Stratasys, added: "The dual need to lighten complex parts and manufacture small series explains why aeronautics has favoured 3D printing as a manufacturing tool and its lead in the use of this technology. But it also means that it is the first sector to identify challenges, one of the major challenges 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 that 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 different detailed specific material maps, through the system's exchange capabilities and directly import toolpaths from stratasys Insight software.
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