The aerospace industry is one of the main users of additive manufacturing and has contributed a strong growth of industrial metal 3D printing in the recent years. Simon Merkt-Schippers, Director Business Development Aviation & Aerospace at SLM Solutions gives insights into the aerospace industry and the high requirements of the sector.
Mr. Merkt-Schippers, what do you think is so fascinating about the Aerospace industry?
“Due to high demand and intense competition, innovative products are quickly accepted and tested. As a provider of SLM® technology, we enjoy this courage and innovative spirit. The idea that parts printed on SLM® machines are used in aircraft and in space is simply fascinating to me and shows the progess of additive manufacturing to an industrial manufacturing process.”
What are the latest developments you see in the aerospace industry?
"Lightweight construction, functional integration and production costs are ongoing topics. Some parts, which are suitable for additive manufacturing unfortunately fail due to the costs incurred along the additive process chain. In addition to the aerospace industry, space travel, especially the launch market is undergoing a strong change. There is more and more rivalry and therefore more intense competition. Of course, this also leads to price pressure. It is interesting to note that smaller companies are gaining a competitive advantage by flexibly using our SLM® technology."
Which properties or requirements for parts are important in the industry?
"The material requirements in aerospace are extremely high, because in most cases safety-critical parts have to be produced. In addition, production costs must be reduced - this is currently one of the most important requirements for competing processes. With additive manufacturing, we can achieve savings in various expensive manufacturing steps: for example, it is not unusual to combine several functions into one part. Joining processes then become superfluous. This also simplifies the certification of the parts and saves costs. Above all, it is challenging that individual parts with as little weight as possible also withstand the high loads. This is particularly possible by using SLM® technology."
Can you give a concrete application example?
"Yes, I'd love to. Here I can directly think of the monolithic thrust chamber of the CellCore rocket engine. In cooperation with CellCore, the highly complex part was developed in which the advantages and possibilities of additive manufacturing are very well presented. In this specific case, the rocket engine combines integral design, i.e. the combination of the numerous individual components into one component with multifunctional lightweight construction. This project shows how successful and important additive manufacturing is in the industry."
Mr. Merkt-Schippers, you spoke earlier about the high requirements in the aerospace industry. What exactly does SLM Solutions do to meet these high requirements?
"Of great importance, of course, are robust and highly productive machines that can produce consistent quality over their entire life cycle. With the SLM®280, the SLM®500 and the SLM®800, we have several machines that are suited for series production. Thanks to our patented multi-laser technology, production costs can be drastically reduced in many cases and new business cases become economical. Extensive software and hardware tests before and after delivery of the machine ensure the capability of our systems.
However, we do not only offer machines, but an integrated manufacturing solution and support along the entire process chain - from software solutions and quality assurance tools to training courses. Therefore we advise customers along the process chain and offer them a customized process chain tailored to their parts. Depending on the project, we involve suitable partners from the areas of quality control, software and the post-processing of parts or our internal application experts.
Additionally, SLM® carries special powder materials designed for the aerospace industry including nickel superalloys (IN719, IN625, HX), titanium and aluminum alloys. These along with coordinated production parameters, which meet the common material requirements of aviation, complete our value offering to the industry."
This year, you will be part of the SLM Solutions team at Paris Airshow. What can visitors expect from the trade fair presence?
"It is very important for us that potential customers learn about the many positive application examples of Additive Manufacturing in aerospace, and how SLM Solutions supports the successful use of SLM® technology. At the Pairs Airshow we will therefore present ourselves as a comprehensive solution provider and will present the complete product portfolio along the entire process chain
We also focus on the comprehensive measures SLM Solutions is taking to meet aerospace requirements before and after delivery of SLM® machines. Through extensive software and hardware testing, we ensure that each machine delivered meets customer expectations and industry requirements, and any production processes that are already established can be transferred to other machines.
I invite all interested parties to visit our exhibition stand Number C 354, hall 2c. There you can also take a look at the monolithic thrust chamber of the rocket engine, which was developed and manufactured together with CellCore. I am looking forward to many interesting conversations!"