3D printing molds and tooling for aviation and aerospace applications
About Technical University Munich
The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is one of Europe’s top universities. At the TUM, research is done on carbon products, tooling and moulding for aviation and aerospace applications. The team responsible for this is the Chair of Carbon Composites (Lehrstuhl für Carbon Composites or LCC). It is their purpose to perform research and development in carbon fiber-reinforced polymer materials, processes and applications, including projects in simulation and testing.
For one of their main projects, the LCC needed to print a mold to produce a demonstrator composite flaperon for large passenger aircrafts. It soon became clear that the current printer formed an obstacle to their project: the output was a maximum of about 2kg/hr and roughly 1kg/hr with PAEKs. Which meant 48 hours were needed to print the initial small-scale mold half of 36 kilograms. And the real product was about ten times larger.
In addition, the software LCC was able to use was limited to the slicing software of the product itself, which did not let them use de G-code they wanted. And the printer struggled with more than 20% carbon fiber loading. It was not able to extrude the materials the LCC needed to work with, because of the high viscosity of the material.
The AM Flexbot solution
CEAD’s AM Flexbot provided an excellent solution for the faced challenges and is now installed and successfully in use. The screw extruder based system is an important addition to the already installed tape laying machines, and the whole process – from order to installation – took only 6 months.
The AM Flexbot is compatible with any slicing software and lets LCC experiment with a variety of materials. The versatile system provides lots of options which can be integrated to configure the system to LCC’s specific needs. Furthermore, it offers the unique option to combine 3D printing and milling into one automated process.
LCC is now able to use their own G-code in the software and able to use higher fiber contents to reduce the warmping. “With the CEAD printer, we were able to print the small-scale mold half in less than 8 hours.” says LCC researcher Patrick Consul in an interview with Composites World. “We have a maximum output of around 12.5 kg/hr, and after a few hours of trials, we had a stable average output of around 5-6 kg/hr.”