Cranfield Uni Biggest 3D printed part
Cranfield University students pose with the six-metre-long spar, which they believe to be the largest single 3D printed part to date.
Cranfield University have unveiled what they believe to be the biggest single metal 3D-printed part to date.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory currently hold the record for a trim and drill tool, built for a Boeing 777X passenger jet, which measures 17.5ft x 5.5ft x 1.5ft.
But using Cranfield’s own Wire + Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) process, the University’s AM programme have produced a six-metre-long, 300-kg, double-sided spar. The part is made from aerospace-grade aluminium on Cranfield’s new 10-metre metal printer. It is already being upgraded to make it suitable for production of titanium parts, with the addition of a local shielding device which the University has also developed.
Cranfield believe WAAM is the most suitable candidate AM process for the manufacture of large structural components, especially for the aerospace sector, but also the oil and gas, automotive and energy industries.
“Hundreds of millions of pounds are spent on medium to large-scale components by the aerospace industry each year,” said Professor Stewart Williams, Head of Cranfield’s Additive Manufacturing programme. “There is great potential for significant cost savings in terms of waste and production efficiency if we can transform the way these parts are manufactured. This demonstration clearly shows the potential of the WAAM process with this newly-acquired machine for changing future manufacturing processes.”
The huge, potentially record-breaking, spar was designed by Cranfield MSc students to test the capability of the new WAAM machine and to assess the challenges of building a structure of such a large size. It is estimated that WAAM can save as much as 70% in cost compared to the traditional machine-from-solid approach. Additionally, the process means a large lead time reduction – from well over a year to just a few weeks.
Cranfield leads the WAAMMat consortium, which compromises 20 industry partners and 13 further universities, targeting the maturation and commercial exploitation of the WAAM process. The AM programme at Cranfield is made up of 30 people and a portfolio of around 70 projects.
Recent research has proved the possibility of achieving even better mechanical properties compared to the equivalent wrought alloys. The team is supporting the qualification programmes of large aerospace original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to enable the aviation industry a more sustainable future.