On the 16th of this month, at the 2017 Formnext in Frankfurt, Germany, Alcoa officially announced that it has signed a new multi-year cooperative research agreement with Airbus to further utilize metal 3D printing technology to produce and verify Large aircraft parts.
Today's aircraft are assembled from thousands of metal rivets and various parts because the aluminum alloy used in the frame is light and sturdy but can not be welded. This type of soldering effect also hinders the development of 3D printing in the direction of high-light aluminum alloys. After the storm breaks down, the welded aluminum aircraft may further reduce the weight of the aircraft, and the lighter mass allows the aircraft to fly farther in the same number, all of which will eventually turn into objective profits and benefits.
3D printing aviation aluminum mass production
It is reported that the new cooperation will combine the metallurgical and metal 3D printing expertise of Arconic (one of Alcoa spin-offs specializing in aerospace 3D printing), Airbus design and certification capabilities, and regulatory approvals. The two companies will work together to develop the parameters and processes for 3D printing of 3-foot-long structural metal aircraft structures such as rib structures and suspension rods.
Arconic will test high-speed electron beam deposition technology at its facilities in Ohio and Pennsylvania and then use it to 3D-print aircraft parts. This method is not only forming large size, but also up to 100 times faster than other metal 3D printing technology, it is very suitable for the manufacture of large aviation structural parts.
Meanwhile, under the cooperation agreement, Arconic will also demonstrate its unique Ampliforge process. It is actually a fusion of 3D printing with traditional manufacturing techniques that will process the 3D print as it approaches completion with another process, such as forging, to increase its strength, toughness and fatigue resistance. At the same time, this process also simplifies the entire process, shortening the production cycle, while reducing material consumption.
It is worth mentioning that, Arconic actually had previously reached an agreement with Airbus - in September 2017, Airbus for the first time to install a 3D printed titanium bracket on the A350XWB passenger aircraft. Arconic is now printing more of such brackets for Airbus 3D using laser powder bed technology at its Texas plant.
China's aluminum production volume situation
In our country, the research and application of aviation aluminum alloy started from the 1950s, initially to meet the needs of aircraft maintenance and imitation. In the mid-1980s began 7075,2024,7475 alloy research, but the material specifications far from reaching the level of European and American countries. Since the 1990s, the research on 7A55, 6A60, high damping aluminum alloy, heat-resistant aluminum alloy and aluminum-lithium alloy has been carried out domestically. However, the research level is still immature and the prices are still high. There is a big gap with advanced foreign technologies, Planes basically rely on imports of aircraft.
In order to replace imported products and enhance the added value of products, at present, at least 10 domestic aluminum production enterprises are all focusing their efforts on the production technology of aviation aluminum thick plates.
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