The Center for Advanced Aerospace Technologies (CATEC) and Airbus Defence & Space have achieved a new technological milestone for Aerospace industry, a very important step forward in the introduction of new technologies and manufacturing techniques for parts and critical structures.
Both entities have undertaken an initiative sponsored by the ESA (European Space Agency), through which they have successfully performed validation tests of the Large Payload Separation System in ARIANE 5 space launcher. This is considered a full system for primary structure that includes several components manufactured by Additive Manufacturing technology in high strength Titanium alloy.
This milestone is released during the Paris Air Show, where CATEC is participating with a full agenda of B2B meetings with companies and organizations of the aerospace sector to enhance relations and technological cooperation in R + D.
It represents a step towards the real implementation of this technology, also called 3D printing, in the manufacture of components and flight structures to be integrated in launchers.
This collaboration between CATEC and Space Systems Division of Airbus Defence & Space has been developing for two years for the maturation of this technology, particularly through Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP) ALM project, based on the additive manufacturing technology for their use in future launchers of European Space Agency (ESA). Among the results obtained in the work carried out to date highlights the structural optimization of the connector of support for the payload adapter (ACU) of the European launcher VEGA.
These new applications developed using Additive Manufacturing processes even can provide a greater optimization that the obtained through the improvement of the design and engineering using the conventional methods of manufacture. In particular, the advances developed by CATEC have enabled to reduce the mass of this connector in a 62.9 %, following an iterative process that has given rise to various intermediate solutions. The latter represents a reduction of 0.285 kg in weight of the piece, which translates into a cost savings (in terms of cargo for payment) of more than € 5,000 per unit.
Thanks to the development of this type of techniques and its application in this field puts CATEC to the forefront of research in new manufacturing technologies, as one of the first European centers to develop this type of manufacturing processes for components of space launchers.
New manufacturing technologies
Materials and Processes play a key role to improve reliability and decrease costs of next generation spacecrafts. ALM technology is based on manufacturing components from a series of layers, each one printed directly on top of the previous one. Basically, objects are created by means of a 3D CAD model using a laser to heat the powder and melt it quickly. And all this without doing any machining work during the manufacturing process.
This technology can be implemented through the entirely product life cycle, providing substantial advantages compared to other conventional machining processes. The possibility of making “impossible” geometries by means of other conventional methods, with improved functionality and mechanical properties comparable to the alloys produced by conventional technologies, are among its main advantages.
It also highlights other important benefits as a substantial savings in the weight of the parts - fundamental aspect in the space field-, the development of new materials or the opportunity to make amendments on the design and its immediate application to the production (with the consequent saving of time and cost).