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3D printed aerospace parts made to withstand harsh environments

By <a href="" target="_self">TriMech Marketing</a>

By TriMech Marketing

Posted on November 15, 2022

Learn how the Stratasys Origin One 3D printer produced production grade products that meet aerospace part requirements and perform in harsh environments.

TriMech client TE Connectivity, a world leader in the production of connectors and sensors, manufactures 192 billion parts annually for its global customer base. For each of their customers, TE must address the best way to meet customer requirements to ensure a timely design, and production costs allow for an acceptable ROI.

Flexible production volumes and expanded catalog options with the Origin One 3D printer

The global trend is an ever-increasing compression of product design cycles. When TE Connectivity wanted to address customer needs for fast turn designs of production-ready connectors and accessories, the hunt for the perfect 3D printing solution and materials to solve the problem began in earnest. TE Connectivity, an early adopter of 3D printing technologies, had been beta testing the Origin One since 2018. Early on, the additive manufacturing group saw the potential for the technology and material offerings to address design cycle timing with materials that perform well in harsh environments.

The problem: one size doesn’t fit all

TE Connectivity was approached by an existing aerospace client with a request they didn’t want to pass up: connectors and holders for a helicopter. The missing part needed to address the unique cabling in the final product was a never-before designed or produced custom holder. The timeline and requirements for a production-grade holder meant that traditional development timelines and manufacturing methods were inadequate for both TE Connectivity and its customer.

TE Connectivity 3D Printed Parts

TE Connectivity 369 Series connector holder 3D printed part

Another hurdle: aerospace-grade materials

The other factor, of course, was material choice. Fused filament-based additive technologies could provide the mechanical properties required, such as high heat and flame retardant properties, but would not be able to meet other requirements: namely, +/- 0.002 in. accuracy. These traditional Flexible production volumes and expanded catalog options with the Origin One 3D printer workhorse technologies wouldn’t be the best fit. TE Connectivity needed a 3D printing solution that could process aerospace-grade materials accurately, consistently, and fast. Only the Stratasys Origin One met those requirements.

3D printed aerospace part chemical testing

Origin One Part Chemical Testing

The final test: 3D printed aerospace part production validation

As a world leader in the manufacturing of high performance connectors and accessories, TE Connectivity required precise accuracy and repeatability across systems in a manufacturing line without fail, all while maintaining a build rate exceeding 10 parts per hour to ensure scalable production. The final stage of their relationship with the helicopter manufacturer required that the parts pass industry standard airworthiness and environmental tests to ensure that the part would not fail during a variety of operating conditions.

Origin One Clamp Frozen Test

Origin One Clamp Frozen Test

Fast, accurate 3D printing

Together with Stratasys and Henkel, using an Origin One 3D printer, TE Connectivity was able to address their customer’s stringent needs. The solution was powered by Stratasys’ Programmable PhotoPolymerization P3™ technology. Stratasys’s strong partnership with Henkel Loctite ensured that the correct material for the job was available; a flame retardant photopolymer capable of printing at the accuracy needed for such small parts.

“Today, we’re seeing the hardware, the software, and the materials from Stratasys really come together to begin making production scale a reality for us. We believe this helps make TE Connectivity a more agile and cost-effective partner for many of the world’s leading OEMs, in industries from automotive to aerospace to appliances, as we work to build a more connected future.”

— Mark Savage, Senior Manager, Additive Manufacturing of TE Connectivity

TE Connectivity has been able to 3D print thousands of connector aerospace parts for multiple clients, including TE’s first-ever aerospace 3D printed production product, the 369 Series connector holder, which is key for helping ensure that the connectors inside of the aircraft remain mated correctly and securely.

Article by <a href="" target="_self">TriMech Marketing</a>

Article by TriMech Marketing

TriMech provides thousands of engineering teams with 3D design and rapid prototyping solutions that work hand-in-hand, from sketch to manufacturing. InterPro became a part of TriMech Solutions LLC in 2021.