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Additive manufacturing adds value to Safran aircraft electrical systems

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Safran Electrical & Power, a French company specializing in electrical systems for commercial and military aircraft, is the latest company to reap the benefits of additive manufacturing and design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) in its design and production processes. The company was spurred to explore the benefits of 3D printing after a growing number of clients enquired about the technology for part production.

In its adoption of additive technologies and systems, Safran Electrical & Power teamed up with UK-based manufacturer Betatype, to leverage its expertise in 3D printing technology and DfAM. As Dr. Mark Craig, the Materials, Special Processes & Composites Company Expert at Safran Electrical & Power, explained:

“We came across Betatype in a search for 3D printing specialists and it was clear after our initial discussions that they had the knowledge and skill-set we were looking for to add value in our new part production programme.”

More specifically, Safran’s Power Division team was looking for ways to improve and optimize the design of an electrical generator housing. Working with Betatype, the company was able to come up with a new design for the part which integrated a number of improvements, including better strength, better stiffness and a significant weight reduction.

These properties were largely achieved thanks to an ultra-high density lattice structure which Betatype manufactured in a proof of concept part. The lattice structure, part of a sandwich structure with over 10 million elements, was reportedly a first for the additive manufacturing company within a case study context.

“We knew creating a more complex, higher density lattice structure was the key to achieving what Safran was looking for in the part,” explained Betatype CEO, Sarat Babu. “Applying our technology and multi-scale approach, we were able to control the scan path and exposure settings down to each element of the sandwich structure’s design. By pushing the AM process of laser powder bed fusion well beyond its standard processes, we created the ultra-high density lattice structure required.”

At this stage, though the electrical generator housing part is still just a proof of concept, Betatype has reported positive results which have led Safran to want to pursue 3D printing other housing components and other parts for its aircraft electrical systems.

Notably, in redesigning the generator housing part, Betatype helped Safran to optimize the design for additive manufacturing, which involved designing the part as a single component. The original part, by contrast, was made up of a number of complexly machined components. By combining the various components into a single piece and by integrating the lattice structure into the part, Betatype was also able to reduce the part weight, the part manufacturing time and part count, resulting in cost savings.

Just months ago, Betatype also worked with an automotive manufacturer to leverage 3D printing for the production of 384 headlight parts.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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