It's all about how you combine it!

Frames, fittings or structural components between fuselage and wing - such parts are found a thousand times over in every aircraft. Up to now, these parts have usually been forged. The North Rhine-Westphalian company OTTO FUCHS is looking to add 3D manufacturing methods to its production in the future. In this way, the benefits of both methods can be exploited. This lowers costs, speeds up production and reduces the amount of materials required.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, die forging is fast and inexpensive for large quantities, but time-consuming and expensive for smaller production runs. Some components can only be produced with a high surplus of material using this method. Very flat parts or narrow, high ribs, for example, must first be forged much thicker and the surplus then machined. 3D printing, on the other hand, is ideal for prototypes and small quantities. With the greater design freedom and the associated possibility of near-net-shape moulding, material consumption is sometimes up to two thirds lower. The procedures can complement each other in an ideal way.

3D printing where it is beneficial

With this in mind, OTTO FUCHS is researching the extent to which components can actually be manufactured using a combined process of die forging and 3D printing in the multi-year SAMT64 research project. The process would also be greatly advantageous for the structural components mentioned. Some of the components differ only in details, such as a right or left orientation or a small difference in size. The idea: Forging a kind of basic element in large quantities and then applying the sometimes complex or variant details additively. In addition, different property profiles could be achieved in one component, which are completely tailored to the application.

Successful conclusion in sight

In a first step, the project has been able to prove since 2018 that the combined process is technically feasible and also works for aviation requirements. The researchers are currently examining for which components the process is actually economically worthwhile. OTTO FUCHS is leading the project, which also involves the Fraunhofer ILT, the Access e.V. association and the Chair of Design and Manufacturing at BTU Cottbus.

The project was sussessfully completed by December 2021.