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Aviation Example – Step 3: 3D Printing Aviation Components

In the third and final step of this case study, the TriMech service team describes the process of 3D printing the landing gear doors for Michael Shuler’s 1955 Falco airplane.

If you missed the first two steps, make sure to catch up on the two videos in the series:

The three main steps for 3D printing aviation components include:

  1. Design for additive manufacturing (DFAM) – the process by which we optimize an existing SOLIDWORKS design file to be better suited for the 3D printing process
  2. Low fidelity prototyping – this allows us to validate our designs without investing too much time and money in production
  3. 3D printing the final part using our ULTEM 9085 material

Low fidelity prototyping saves time and money

During the low fidelity prototyping stage, we are focused on near net shape and validating the fit. In order to keep costs down and to speed up production time, we typically work with a thicker slice height and a more cost-effective material such as ABS or ASA. Print time for the low fidelity prototype was approximately five hour; allowing us to get the design on the printer in the morning and send it back to the design team for a test fit before the end of the day.

3D printing certified parts for aviation

The Stratasys F900 3D printer combined with ULTEM 9085 material is the only combination with a validated path for certification to create parts that may be used for in-flight. ULTEM 9085 resin is a flame-retardant high-performance thermoplastic for digital manufacturing and rapid prototyping. It is ideal for 3D printing aviation components due to its high strength-to-weight ratio and its FST (flame, smoke and toxicity) rating. The F900 printer is designed to handle the high demands of manufacturing with high accuracy and repeatability.

Advantages of advanced manufacturing methods

By leveraging 3D scanning and 3D printing, we were able to significantly reduce lead time, design errors and weight of the landing gear doors. 3D scanning allowed us to capture large amounts of data quickly and accurately and send it to our expert in our Winnipeg office. The data was then converted into a 3D CAD model for 3D printing. Finally, our Professional Services team printed the prototypes and final parts for the plane.

Stay tuned for the installation of the landing gear doors and takeoff!