Aerospace AMAviationDefenseIndustrial Additive Manufacturing

Marshall Aerospace and Defence using FDM 3D printing for flight-ready parts

The UK-based company is utilizing Stratasys Fortus 450mc for various applications

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UK-based Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group has revealed the various ways in which it is employing 3D printing technologies, and specifically Stratasys’ FDM systems, to produce flight-ready parts for aircraft and ground-running equipment. The company says that additive manufacturing has enabled it to reduce production costs for certain components, while often also reducing weight.

Headquartered in Cambridge, England, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group is one of the world’s largest privately owned, independent aerospace and defense companies. With a presence in the UK, Canada, Europe and UEA region, the company delivers cutting-edge applied engineering services focused on protecting people in critical situations.

From flight-ready parts…

Today, 3D printing is allowing the company to continue to innovate and improve its production and products. Through its aerospace business, the company has turned to Stratasys’ Fortus 450mc FDM 3D printer to produce a number of ductwork for heavily modified aircraft, as well as holders for safety knives and switches for aircraft interiors. All of the 3D printed parts are flight-approved and can be produced on demand as an alternative to traditionally produced aluminum or metal components, resulting in parts that are lighter, faster and cheaper to produce.

Marshall Aerospace and Defence Stratasys
3D Printed forming tool

“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,” said Chris Bottling, Materials, Processes and Additive Manufacturing Engineer at Marshall ADG. “But we also need to ensure that the ducting work produced will be approved by the EASA for flight.

“As a result, we’re using the Stratasys Fortus 450mc FDM Printer and ULTEM™ 9085 resin—a tough, yet lightweight 3D printing material with high thermal and chemical resistance. This has been crucial to overcoming the stringent requirements of our industry, as we can now 3D print parts with the desired flame, smoke and toxicity properties for use on aircraft interiors.”

To on-the-ground components

Marshall ADG is not only using Stratasys’ 3D printing technology for aircraft components, as it has also found applications for the Fortus 450mc for on-the-ground parts. The 3D printer, purchased from Stratasys UK and SYS Systems, an Irish platinum partner, is being used to produce end-use parts as well as drill jigs, masking templates, composite mold tooling and more.

Marshall highlighted a recent component it made, a ducting adapter prototype for vital ground-running equipment—a crucial component in providing fresh air to cool the aircraft’s avionics. Compared to traditional methods and aluminum material, 3D printing the part allowed for a significant cost and weight reduction.

Marshall Aerospace and Defence Stratasys
3D printed duct adapter for cooling aircraft on the ground

Bottling elaborated: “Before committing to expensive aluminum machining, we used the Fortus 450mc to 3D print a prototype in ASA material. It enabled us to create an accurate working prototype of a complex component. We were then 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.”

The Stratasys 3D printer is also being put to good use for a number of complex tooling applications, including drill jigs, masking templates, bonded fixtures and composite mold tooling. The 3D printer has become an important piece of equipment in the production of low-volume, customized production tools as it enables rapid turnaround times (within 24 hours) and lowering costs significantly for urgent operational tasks.

“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 concluded. “In the future, there is no doubt that 3D printing will continue to have a significant impact in the way we design and manufacture in our business.”

Stratasys, for its part, will be showcasing its AM solutions for the aerospace industry at the upcoming International Paris Air Show from June 17 to 23, 2019.

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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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