Get larger stronger parts produced quicker at a lower cost…. Something Australian Manufacturing needs to stay competitive.
It took 37 hours to print the 1.2m spar section (used to form an aircraft wing) using a WAAM process; Wire and Arc Additive Manufacture and is part of a joint research project between BAE Systems and Cranfield University.
Check out the story here
Wire and Arc Additive Manufacturing Explained
First lets explain the current method. The main form of MAM (Metal Additive Manufacturing) process uses a powder, heating it up and builds the part layer by layer.
This process can produce shapes with a high degree of complexity however has a low deposition rate and material deficiency which causes quality and flaw issues and comes at a high cost. Ti powder uses a gas process to turn the Ti into a powdered form and is actually explosive too. Click here for more info on this process.
The primary objective Cranfield Uni had was to create large scale structural components using a MAM process, so instead of using Ti powder, they used a wire based approach modifying a robotic arm and adding a welding source building the part layer by layer.
This hybrid method has the reverse effects, only being able to create parts at a medium to low level of complexity but the part sizes are bigger, the process has high deposition rates (several kg/h), a 90% material efficiency with no defects and at a low cost.
Cranfield University has a long history in Additive Manufacturing and in 1994 developed Shaped Metal Deposition (SMD) for Rolls Royce for engine casings and other processes.
Check out Cranfield Universities Presentation on WAAM here