Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, one of the world’s largest privately owned and independent aerospace and defense company, is taking to the skies with flight-ready parts made from Stratasys additive manufacturing.
The company already has several pieces of 3D-printed ductwork flying on heavily modified aircraft, as well as aircraft interior holders for housing safety knives and switches. Instead of committing to expensive aluminum machining, Marshall is now able to 3D print flight-approved parts that are not only lighter but also manufacture them quicker at a lower cost.
With accuracy, repeatability, and reliability assured by using aerospace-approved materials such as ULTEM 9085 resin, Marshall is able to produce parts that meet the desired flame, smoke and toxicity properties for aircraft interiors.
“When manufacturing on complex engineering programs, we need a method that can create an accurate, complex, functional and lightweight duct efficiently with minimal tooling costs – this is where 3D printing fits perfectly. But we also need to ensure that the ducting work produced will be approved by the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) for flight,” explains Chris Botting, Materials, Processes and Additive Manufacturing Engineer at Marshall.
Marshall has also found 3D printing to be instrumental in proving complex designs before moving to expensive production. Among them is a key ducting adapter prototype for vital ground-running equipment – essential for providing fresh air to cool the aircraft’s avionics, and was produced using ASA material. By turning to 3D printing, Marshall has managed to transition away from costly aluminum machining, alongside a 63 percent reduction in overall part weight.
“With the accurate working prototype, we were able to demonstrate it had the potential to be 3D printed in Nylon 12 material as opposed to the more conventional method of machining from aluminum. The 3D printed duct led to a significant cost reduction compared to machining the part out of aluminum, as well as a 63% reduction in overall weight,” says Botting.
Within 24 hours of an engineer’s request, the team is able to produce customized, low-volume production tools which reduce the operator’s burden, and crucially reduce cost and lead times for urgent operational tasks.
The complex tooling applications include:
- drill jigs
- masking templates
- bonded fixtures
- composite mold tooling
- thermoplastic tools
“There is no doubt that 3D printing will continue to have a significant impact on the way we design and manufacture in our business. FDM technology has altered the way we work, and the aerospace-grade 3D printers and materials enable us to meet our increasingly aggressive deadlines and complex manufacturing requirements,” Botting said.
Marshall is just one of the hundreds of companies worldwide that are putting the power of Stratasys technology to work for their high-requirement manufacturing environment and empower their business workflow.