final part is particularly noteworthy with LMD-w technology. Users can select a part build strategy (including geometry of deposition and incoming material, path planning, deposition rate, etc.) and combine it with a finishing strategy that achieves the final part requirements for surface finish, mechanical performance and more. This opens up possibilities for a multitude of potential manufacturing concepts: the key is to find the most cost-effective strategy that achieves the technical requirements.
To date, GKN’s LMD-w process has already been used on components of advanced rocket engine sub-systems for the European Space Agency’s Ariane 6 launch vehicle: specifically, an advanced 2.5 mm diameter nozzle for the Ariane program’s Vulcain 2.1 engine. Large-scale use of laser welding and laser metal deposition for key structural features resulted in 90 percent reduction of component parts, taking it down from approximately 1,000 parts to 100 parts, according to GKN.
The next step is to scale the LMD-w technology up. The research that will result from the partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratories is underway at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL to industrialize GKN’s technology for larger volume and larger scale AM projects. Specifically, the goal is to create a prototype machine that will manufacture complex medium- and large-scale aircraft structures in titanium. The second focus will be on a process called electron beam melting (EBM) that can produce precise, complex, small- to medium-sized components. A metal powder is melted with an electron beam, again building up the component layer by layer. The partnership will support work already in progress to make the process ready for introduction into full-scale, high-volume aerospace production.
“The partnership leverages ORNL's core capabilities in materials science, high performance computing and material characterization,” Sharman told Design News. “ORNL’s core scientific capabilities build on a growing ecosystem in metal additive manufacturing at the US Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, leading to improved efficiency of materials and energy usage for aerospace applications.”
Once the AM process and its novel deposition technology are mastered, it could unlock new materials and design potential for future aircraft designs. GKN is currently exploring options to combine multiple advanced materials and manufacturing processes to design parts and systems with cost and performance not achievable with today’s traditional processes, according to the company.