3D printing in the aerospace industry

On February 6, 2018, the whole world was cheering for Elon Musk, a crazy technologist. His private rocket company SpaceX finally put the world’s most powerful active carrier rocket “Falcon Heavy” “(Falcon Heavy) successfully launched into space. What you don’t know is that the “Falcon Heavy” design is actually based on the “Falcon 9” fuselage and engine, and the “Falcon 9” rocket contains a large number of 3D printed parts, even including key components, oxidizers. Valve body.

Not only SpaceX, but NASA, GE, Rocket Lab and other scientific research units that are at the forefront of the aerospace field have become loyal fans of 3D Printing technology and have achieved outstanding results. Why can 3D Printing stir up waves in high-tech fields such as aerospace and aviation? “3D Printing ” magazine has a dialogue with Dr. Zhi Haibo, general manager of China Aerospace 3D Printing Research Center, and takes you into the world of aerospace 3D printing.

In 2014, the rapid development of 3D printing in China, especially the application in aerospace, brought a lot of space for the market development of 3D printing, solved many problems that cannot be solved by the original manufacturing methods, and made people in the industry more and more. The more I realize the infinite possibilities of 3D printing in the aerospace industry in the future. In view of the situation at the time and in order to adapt to the increasing demand for aerospace product manufacturing, and to integrate and optimize the group’s internal technology and application resources. Aerospace Science and Technology Group has decided that Beijing Shenzhou Aerospace Software Technology Co., Ltd. will be responsible for the construction of the China Aerospace 3D Printing Research Center. Nanjing Shenzhou Aerospace Intelligent Manufacturing Co., Ltd. is responsible for the specific operation, considering joint development. The market and the need to expand the application level, at the same time, China Aerospace Chenguang Co., Ltd. jointly established the China Aerospace 3D Printing Research Center, which mainly provides 3D printing services for the military industry such as aerospace and aviation, and also provides services for other industries in the society. The China Aerospace 3D Printing Research Center was officially inaugurated on December 8, 2014 with the strong support of the Nanjing Municipal Government and Nanjing Future Science and Technology City. After more than half a year of preparation, it was officially put into operation in July 2015. At present, the center has metal printers (SLM), light curing printers (SLA), sand printers (3DP), large, medium and small FDM printers, ceramics, wax printers and other 3D printing equipment, forming a relatively complete 3D printing equipment group, which is continuously A series of researches have been conducted on the additive manufacturing technology and equipment of fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite large-scale aerospace integral structural parts, and preliminary results have been obtained. The center has a well-trained, united, efficient, and reasonably structured operation team, as well as an academic committee composed of well-known experts in the domestic 3D printing industry, which provides a strong technical guarantee for the smooth operation of the center. I am currently the general manager of the center, responsible for the overall work of the center.

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Dr. Zhi Haibo, General Manager of China Aerospace Nanjing Shenzhou Aerospace Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd. and China Aerospace 3D Printing Research Center, “3D Printing World”: It is understood that aviation and aerospace are actually two different concepts. In the field of aerospace, research What is the main task of the center at present? What role does 3D printing play in it? Dr. Zhi Haibo:Strictly speaking, aerospace is indeed two different industries. My major in university is aircraft manufacturing, and then I switched to aerospace, so I may have a deeper understanding of aerospace. Although there are differences between these two industries, they are both industries with aircraft products as their main industry. Therefore, there are many commonalities and many different aspects. However, the high strength, high stiffness, high fatigue life and other performance requirements of parts are consistent, and the most difficult thing is to be as light as possible. These requirements themselves are mutually restrictive and contradictory. These problems to be solved are also in aerospace. Problems facing the field. The main task of the center is to use the new processing method of 3D printing to solve the manufacturing problems of complex aerospace product parts and components, and solve the manufacturing problems that cannot be solved by traditional processing methods. At the same time, we hope that with the support of the new manufacturing technology of 3D printing, our aerospace designers can design aerospace product parts that meet the functional requirements and are topology-optimized, so that the spacecraft will be lighter, more optimized in structure, and more performant. Good, lower cost, and at the same time, the development cycle is greatly shortened to meet the growing demand of the aerospace market. “3D Printing World”: From a general perspective, what aspects of aerospace are mainly used for 3D printing? What kind of good news does it bring to the aerospace industry? Dr. Zhi Haibo: At present, 3D printing is used in the manufacture of rockets, satellites, spacecrafts, missiles and other spacecraft. In the future, it may also be applied to the maintenance of space stations to achieve space-on-orbit manufacturing. At present, some of these applications have been implemented, and some are still in the experimental stage. The application of 3D printing manufacturing technology provides a strong technical guarantee for the spacecraft to fly higher, fly more easily, and fly more safely, so that we can get Spacecraft with better performance and lower cost.

 In foreign countries, there are many forward-looking experimental studies or practical applications such as 3D printing, such as 3D printing satellites, 3D printing a certain part of a rocket engine, etc., in your impression, currently the most Which is the actual application case of the technical representative, and what is the reason? Dr. Zhi Haibo:In my impression, the actual application case in the aerospace field is the familiar case of the American GE company using 3D printing manufacturing technology to successfully manufacture the fuel nozzle in the rocket engine. This case has also been mentioned countless times. It is a 3D printing practice. Classic case of application. This case makes perfect use of the technical characteristics of 3D printing. Let product designers have more room to play in the design of complex parts in the aircraft. From the past, designers focused on considering the manufacturability of parts and turned them into realizing the functionality of parts under additive design thinking, which can make printed parts reach thin walls, sharp corners, overhangs, and cylinders that cannot be achieved by traditional methods. The limit size of the same shape.

Due to the limitation of traditional manufacturing technology, the previous fuel injection nozzles consist of three parts combined together by welding, which not only cannot avoid the defects of welding, but also increases the weight of the fuel injection nozzle. The use of metal 3D printing technology to manufacture fuel injectors allows designers to optimize the design of fuel injectors into integrated parts, reducing many parts and assembly processes, which is conducive to the lightweight and performance of the parts themselves, and also greatly The manufacturing cost and manufacturing time are saved, and the manufacturing quality is greatly improved. The realization of a similar integrated structure makes traditional assembly work unnecessary. Due to the successful manufacturing of this part, GE has greatly accelerated the application of 3D printing technology. At present, GE has acquired the German CONSEPT LASER company and the Swedish ARCAM company while applying 3D printing on a large scale, and has entered the equipment manufacturing industry, which fully shows that GE I am full of confidence in the development and application of 3D printing technology.  In my country, there are few 3D printing application cases in aerospace. What is the current domestic situation in this regard? Dr. Zhi Haibo: Due to the confidentiality of the industry, there are not many reports on 3D printing applications in aerospace. In fact, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation First Academy, Fifth Academy, Sixth Academy, Eighth Academy and Third Academy of Aerospace Science and Technology and other aerospace units have already carried out 3D printing applications and made great progress in practical applications.

3D Printing : Foreign countries sent 3D printers to space as early as a few years ago. What do you think of this trend in the hope of using 3D printing to achieve “manufacturing in space”? Dr. Zhi Haibo:As early as 2014, NASA sent a 3D printer suitable for operation in a vacuum environment to the space station for a series of tests, printed out some parts and sent them back to Earth for performance testing, but what were the results of the tests? Can it meet the performance requirements of the product? Did not see follow-up reports. Space 3D printing must be the key technology to realize space manufacturing in the future, and it may also be the key to the industrialization of space. The unique technical characteristics and designability of 3D printing technology make future space product manufacturing full of possibilities. In short, I personally think that 3D printing technology will definitely provide more technical support for future space manufacturing. Of course, there are many more to achieve this goal. To solve the problem, it will be possible to achieve this goal after a long period of research and application. As far as I know, there is no practical space 3D printer developed in China.

“3D Printing “: China Aerospace 3D Printing Research Center has both imported EOS metal printing equipment and domestically produced Blite equipment. How do you evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of these two equipment? Please also talk about the gaps in 3D printing in the aerospace field between China and foreign countries? Dr. Zhi Haibo: We are the first domestic company to use Blite’s domestic metal 3D printing equipment. From the perspective of cost performance, Blite equipment has an advantage, but after all, the history of domestic equipment is very short. In November 2014, the first commercial metal 3D printing equipment was launched in China. It has only been more than 3 years now. Compared with established foreign companies such as EOS, there is still a certain gap in all aspects. Fortunately, the current gap It is getting smaller and smaller. I think that in time, the metal 3D printing equipment produced by domestic equipment manufacturers including Bright will catch up with or even exceed the equipment produced by foreign companies like EOS. And from my personal experience, Blite should be the best metal 3D printing equipment in China. As for the gap between Chinese and foreign aerospace in terms of 3D printing technology, I think it is still in terms of the breadth and depth of the scope of application, and the domestic aerospace sector still has resources scattered, and each is in a situation. It may be better if they work together. To promote the application of 3D printing in aerospace, it is also recommended to cooperate more with units outside the industry to promote application research and practice in the aerospace field.

“3D Printing “: What do you think of the technology of 3D printing? How strong is the state’s support in this regard?Dr. Zhi Haibo: As a powerful supplement to traditional manufacturing technology, 3D printing manufacturing technology has shown a powerful role in practical applications in recent years. It is expected to subvert traditional design thinking and concepts. I personally think that manufacturing technology is revolutionary Yes, especially 3D printing technology solves many problems that have not been solved before, so that designers do not need to consider the manufacturability of the product when designing products, which is what we often call the process problem, but only need to consider the function of the product Demand, truly realize “what you want is what you get”, “design is more free, and manufacturing is simpler”. From the perspective of the development of the 3D printing industry in the past four years, more and more companies are beginning to pay attention to the development of 3D printing technology. Many large companies and capitals are entering this industry, and the entire industry is facing reshuffle and integration. . This is both gratifying and a bit worrisome. As the 3D printing application market is still in the early stages of incubation and has not yet fully developed rapidly, a large number of companies and capital have poured into this industry, which may affect the normal and Rational development. Therefore, I hope everyone can rationally view the development of the 3D printing industry, carefully and comprehensively consider the feasibility of entering the 3D printing industry, and treat the development rationally, instead of rushing forward without sufficient research and analysis. I hope everyone will maintain the 3D printing industry together. The long-term, stable, healthy and sustainable development of the market. For three consecutive years from 2016 to 2018, the country spent hundreds of millions of yuan to initiate a major research and development funding program for additive manufacturing. It also established a national additive manufacturing innovation center in Xi’an. At the same time, various provinces and cities have also carried out a series of 3D printing. These measures have played a very good role in promoting the development of 3D printing technology. But I think 3D printing technology still has a lot of basic work to be improved, such as: standard formulation, medical 3D printing product evidence collection, etc. The speed of the development of these basic work will determine the pace of 3D printing technology application, and we most need it now. What to do is to fully tap the application requirements of 3D printing.  

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