JTC Corporation has signed a series of agreements with local and international aerospace companies that are looking to expand operations in Singapore. These leading aerospace companies have committed S$500 million new investments in Singapore over the next 5 years. Companies involved include GE Aviation, Overhaul Services – Singapore; SIA Engineering Company Limited (SIAEC); Singapore Aero Engine Services (SAESL); Ametek MRO; GE Aviation, Engine Services – Singapore; Pattonair; and RLC Group (Singapore).
Amidst global economic uncertainties, the long-term prospects for the aerospace sector remain bright. Since 2015, total output for our aerospace industry has enjoyed a compound annual growth rate of 10 percent and surpassed S$11 billion in 2018.
This investment will expand the aerospace ecosystem and supplier networks and strengthen Singapore’s position as a global hub.
GE Aviation, Overhaul Services a joint venture between GE Aviation and SIAEC is setting up a state-of-the-art engine overhaul facility which will adopt digitisation and data analytics to enhance productivity. SIAEC has identified Changi North estate as a potential site for its facility for its engines. While SAESL, a joint venture between SIAEC and Rolls-Royce is exploring an expansion in JTC’s aerospace enclave in Loyang estate.
Furthermore, new entrants are establishing their operations in Seletar Aerospace Park. This includes Proponent, which will open a 20,000-square-foot regional distribution facility and PPG which will complete its new 38,750 square-foot Application Support Centre (ASC) at Seletar Aerospace Park.
To meet strong industry demand, JTC also launched aeroSpace Three, a new cluster of nine ready-built standard factories to provide “plug & play” solutions for aerospace manufacturing and MRO activities. These new standard factories will incorporate the industry’s requirements for higher technical specifications to cater for Industry 4.0 technologies and the use of heavier and larger equipment.
In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking News, Dr. Mohsen Seifi, Director of Global Additive Manufacturing Programs at ASTM International, discusses the benefits of additive manufacturing (AM) in manufacturing and the role of data analytics in AM.
Dr. Mohsen Seifi, Director of Global Additive Manufacturing Programs, ASTM International
Tell us more about ASTM International, for those who may not be familiar with the organisation.
ASTM International is one of the world’s leading standards development organisations, founded in 1898. We have 150 technical committees that oversee about 13,000 standards that are widely used around the world. Several of those committees are in emerging industries, including one for additive manufacturing technology that now has nearly 1,000 members, known as F42. For over a decade, this group of the world’s top additive manufacturing experts has been meeting and working through ASTM to develop groundbreaking standards that have begun to form the technical foundation for the future of additive manufacturing. Furthermore, ASTM International has made a dramatic investment in front-end research to develop even more standards through our Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence, a network of high-profile partners around the globe which includes Singapore’s National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC). Please visit our website for more detailed information.
In the Industry 4.0 era, greater efficiency and product innovation are key priorities for manufacturers. How can they leverage additive manufacturing/3D printing to achieve both?
A big challenge for manufacturers is the lack of communication between stakeholders at different steps in the process chain. Smart, digital manufacturing could allow manufacturers to effectively transfer the most relevant information across all stages of product development, from designers to end-users. Additive Manufacturing is an integral part of Industry 4.0 and is an excellent technology for product innovation that could significantly reduce the time for product development through iterative design capabilities.
Also, Additive manufacturing can substantially improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process by parts consolidation. This will enhance the effectiveness of a system as a whole in terms of weight reduction, material optimisation, and reduction in fuel consumption. For AM, digital manufacturing means integrating physical system-oriented manufacturing with digital system-oriented Industry 4.0 technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence (AI), big data, robotics, cybersecurity, and Internet of Things [IoT]). To fully unlock the potential of smart, digital manufacturing, there are still issues to address, which include cybersecurity concerns, data management challenges, and other critical gaps. ASTM uses various roadmaps to develop standards to address these gaps and to meet the industry needs.
Which end-markets do you see increasing adoption of additive manufacturing?
AM has the potential to impact all manufacturing-related sectors—from aerospace, medical and automotive to oil/gas, maritime and other sectors—and we anticipate adoption will increase exponentially across the board in the next 10 years. In particular, AM holds great promise for aerospace/defense and medical applications. Both of these sectors require complex, specialised parts, which AM is capable of producing. More importantly, the demand for AM qualification and certification in these high-tech areas/end-markets is high. This is because successful qualification and certification provide end-market users with increased confidence (i.e., improvements in quality and reduced safety concerns). According to a recent survey, the three most significant challenges to adoption of AM for end-market users over the next ten years are: 1) the certification of finished parts and products, hindering its mainstream commercial uptake in the future; 2) the quality and standardisation of material inputs; and 3) unknown quality of printed components.
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to additive manufacturing?
As an emerging field, the AM industry still needs a shared language and framework for addressing problems. Lack of standards is one of the biggest challenges for additive manufacturing in addition to other challenges such as lack of qualified workforce, limited availability of materials, and the lack of full-fledged certification programs. Standards provide a common reference point to help the industry avoid the time and expense of solving problems by trial and error. For example, there is an ongoing need for a better understanding of feedstock properties, methods for in-process monitoring and control, machine-to-machine variation, and rapid inspection methods for AM parts, among other topics. In addition, standards are a key enabler of the qualification and certification procedures that were mentioned above.
To accelerate the development of standards to address these challenges, we launched the AM Center of Excellence (CoE), a collaborative partnership among industry, academia, and government that integrates research and development (R&D) with standards development. By initiating R&D projects that target specific high-priority standards needs, I believe we can speed the overall advancement and adoption of AM technologies. Detailed information will be available in our upcoming external R&D roadmap, which will be released this spring. In the meantime, our annual report provides an overview of the AM CoE’s activities.
Why is analytics a feasible solution?
One benefit of analytics is that it presents decision-makers with the key information required to make informed decisions. Manufacturers have access to a wealth of data about their products and processes but are not always able to use it. Analytics is a great tool to convert data into actionable knowledge that can be used to optimise product development. In the case of AM, solutions such as data-enabled material screening, build monitoring, and post-build characterisation ensure the product meets its specifications with as few iterations as possible, helping minimise production time and cost.
How will data analytics make additive manufacturing more efficient?
AM generates more data than any other manufacturing field—this data has great value, but there are challenges to extracting useful information. Structuring data in a way that adheres to FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) will be vital to the success of AM. Data analytics holds the key to processing and making sense of vast stores of data, which will ultimately accelerate the AM development timeline. Data analytics is a solution that cuts across all sectors and is already shaping the future of technology as we know it.
Through AI, which encompasses machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL), the AM industry can quickly decode quantitative structure/process/property/performance relationships, which is a core challenge in the AM field. For example, it is possible to use AI to sift through potential AM materials to find those with optimal properties or functionalities. AI can also enable data-driven in-situ/real-time monitoring for identifying better processes. However, to enable these data-driven advances, the AM community needs an AM data ecosystem that enables the easy and secure generation, storage, analysis, and sharing of data. ASTM and America Makes recently convened a workshop on manufacturing data management and schema to identify and prioritise challenges and potential solutions for strengthening the AM data ecosystem.
What is your outlook for additive manufacturing/3D printing this year?
It is very hard to predict the future of AM because technology is rapidly changing, but I would like to see 2020 as the year of standards. There is an exciting opportunity for more integration between AM and other elements of industry 4.0, in terms of automation, robotics, cybersecurity, and big data—creating these links is a great way to connect the physical world and digital world. I believe that the best way to create synergy between these critical technologies is through standardisation to add trust. The more we can focus on developing standards, the sooner we can see these advances.
Here’s how one company was able to develop a cable mount on the front spar of the vertical stabilizer for a passenger aircraft in record time. Article by EOS GmbH.
Unified design of the additively manufactured tail bracket eliminates 30 parts down to one. (Source: Sogeti)
The moment when a completely new commercial aircraft takes to the skies for the first time is always special—and this was especially true of the Airbus A350 XWB. As a child of the new millennium, it was clear from the very beginning that development work would focus on innovative materials and production processes—the goal was no less than to build the world’s most efficient aircraft.
As a technology of the future, additive manufacturing was another possibility that needed to be considered during development. As part of a pilot project, experts from Sogeti High Tech succeeded in developing a cable mount on the front spar of the vertical stabilizer for the passenger aircraft in record time, taking only two weeks from the initial sketch to the finished part. EOS technology and expertise was a pivotal aspect of this development process.
The project specifically involved producing a cable routing mount for the latest Airbus model. The mount was ultimately needed for the power supply and data transportation of a camera located in the vertical stabilizer, providing a view of the outside to passengers and orientation on the ground to the pilots. The product requirements document called for a functionally operational component suitable for series production. This task was entrusted to Sogeti High Tech, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cap Gemini S.A.
The particular challenge in this case was the short lead time of just two weeks. The entire development had to be completed within this time frame: From analysis of the part and of the current installation set-up, a parameter study aimed at optimizing the topology and its interpretation, and the design and production of the finished part. The mount also needed to have as few support structures as possible to avoid post-processing. In addition, the specifications for the component called for integration of the snap-on cable holder, weight reduction, and compliance with the strict requirements for subsequent aviation industry certification.
The conventionally produced component was made up of formed sheet metal parts and numerous rivets—more than 30 individual parts in total. The plug connectors in the upper area were made from plastic, and thus from a different material than the other individual parts of the mount. The aim was to develop an integrated solution consisting of a single part that also included the plug connectors, thereby significantly reducing construction and installation times. The weight reduction target for additive manufacturing was determined by a parameter study based on topology optimization.
For the new component, Sogeti High Tech followed the tried-and-tested development process for designing additively manufactured parts. The project kicked off with an analysis of the existing, conventionally produced component in terms of the upcoming manufacturing process—with an extremely positive outcome. The component’s functionality, material, and previously complex structure made it an ideal candidate for powder-bed-based 3D printing technology from EOS. The design freedom offered by this technology allows complex structures to be produced in a single piece, meaning that a weight-saving design can be selected without neglecting functional integration.
This analysis then allowed the so-called design space—the space that the cable-routing mount may occupy—to be defined. The aluminium alloy AlSi10Mg, which is ideal for thin-walled, complex structures, was chosen as the material. The interfaces to the external areas remained the same, forming the non-design space, meaning that no changes are needed to be made to them. The defined loads were taken as the boundary conditions for topology optimization in the parameter study, providing the basis for a new design.
As is customary, CAE software was used for the topology optimization calculations; by contrast, a dedicated solution for designing structures with free-form surfaces was used for the re-design. Sogeti High Tech created the design itself. In order to meet the lead time of two weeks, EOS calculated the build time and optimized parameters from the topology optimization results using the EOSPRINT software, which created the CAE implementation for the manufactured part while also taking into account the possibilities and limitations of the manufacturing process and the need to avoid support structures.
“In addition to outstanding hardware, EOS also offers comprehensive expertise in making additively manufactured components reality—something that we rate very highly,” says Carlos Ribeiro Simoes, Additive Manufacturing Offering Leader at Sogeti High Tech.
Thanks to the cooperation between Sogeti and EOS, it was possible to develop a component optimized for additive manufacturing that fully exploits the design freedom afforded by direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology, while at the same time taking account of its restrictions. This allowed plug connectors for cable routing to be integrated into the design and local reinforcement to be incorporated in specific critical areas in order to optimize the structure. Self-supporting apertures and struts within the component help to keep the effort, and hence, the post-processing costs to a minimum.
Additionally, the mount can be produced extremely fast, whenever it is needed. Manufacturing—performed on an EOS M 400 with layer thicknesses of 90 μm—only takes 19 hours instead of the 70 days previously required. This corresponds to a reduction in the production time well in excess of 90 percent. This is largely because the many individual steps and formerly 30 parts have been brought together in a central component that can now be produced in a single run. In addition, the individual parts no longer need to be constructed and held in stock, which can be expensive. Storage for the entire component assembly is now also much more straightforward.
Sogeti was not only able to save a huge amount of time in production, but also in development. The entire process from the initial sketch to the finished component took only two weeks. This is a phenomenal lead time. At the same time, the design also means greater weight efficiency. Whereas the conventionally manufactured original part weighed 452 g, the additively manufactured cable mount weighs just 317 g—and it is well known that the aviation industry counts every single gram in the interest of cutting fuel consumption to a minimum. The customer, Airbus, was more than satisfied with the results.
“Getting an existing component ‘AM-ready’ in just two weeks meant that we had to succeed at the first attempt. The excellent, proactive collaboration with EOS made this ambitious undertaking possible—with outstanding results,” says Simoes.
As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak, its impact can also be felt by automotive and aerospace manufacturers. Auto parts manufacturers across China such as Nissan, Honda Motor and PSA Peugeot Citroen, have suspended operations to keep their workers at home in order to minimise spread of the virus.
Wuhan, the capital of Hubei and the epicentre of the disease is one of the major auto-industry hubs in China—home to seven major domestic and foreign auto manufacturers, as well as hundreds of auto parts suppliers. According to China Passenger Car Association, the province produced 2.2 million auto units in 2019 which accounted to nine percent of the country’s total production.
“Carmakers will face severe parts-supply issues, something companies didn’t encounter during the SARS period,” said Cui Dongshu, secretary general of China’s Passenger Car Association. “Wuhan is the most cost competitive among China’s car-industry hubs, therefore many parts makers produce components there and supply their clients around the world.”
Automakers are expected to lose 350,000 units or about seven percent in the first quarter of the year if plants in 11 provinces responsible for two-thirds of China’s vehicle production are down until February 10, according to automotive research firm IHS Markit.
Most recently, Hyundai has halted one of its assembly lines in its South Korea factory due to the lack of auto parts from China as a result of the outbreak. The company also plans to gradually suspend production in its factories due to the supply chain disruptions—the first global automaker to do so outside of China.
Similarly, aerospace manufacturers are also affected by this crisis. Airbus has shut down an assembly line in China which is responsible for 10 percent of production for its most popular jet. The company said that domestic and international travel restrictions were posing logistical challenges for operations of its factory.
In a statement, Airbus said that they are “constantly evaluating the situation and monitoring any potential knock on effects to production and deliveries and will try to mitigate via alternative plans where necessary.”
With major supply chain disruptions in the manufacturing sectors caused by the outbreak, IHS forecasts a loss of more than 1.7 million units for the first quarter if automotive plants remain closed until mid-March. Given the unpredictable nature of the virus, manufacturers will have to remain vigilant and monitor the global situation closely.
Airbus has acquired industrial automation company, MTM Robotics which deepens Airbus’ commitment to expanding advanced robotics capabilities within its manufacturing processes.
“We are pleased and excited to become a part of the Airbus family and look forward to further integrating our products and approaches into the Airbus industrialisation chain, “said MTM founder, Mike Woogerd.
The acquisition is the latest chapter in a trusted, ten-year-plus relationship between the companies, with multiple MTM light automated robotics systems currently in use at Airbus manufacturing facilities. While MTM will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus Americas, Inc., headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, it will continue to serve other customers in the aerospace industry.
The acquisition marks the latest step for Airbus in its industrialisation roadmap, aimed at leveraging the time- and cost-saving benefits associated with using robotics in the manufacture and assembly of its commercial aircraft.
“The competitiveness of tomorrow will be determined by both designing the best aircraft and by building the most efficient manufacturing system, in parallel,” said Michael Schoellhorn, Airbus Chief Operating Officer.
“Automation & robotics are central to our industrial strategy. We are very happy to welcome MTM Robotics as a family member and take a step forward on this exciting endeavour together,” he continued.
“Airbus and MTM Robotics each believe that tomorrow’s automation in aircraft manufacturing can and must be lighter, more portable and less capital intensive,” explained Vigié. “By joining our efforts and skills, we are well positioned to establish industrywide standards for the factory of tomorrow,” said Patrick Vigié, Head of Industrial Technologies at Airbus.
Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News sat down with Jeff Boyd of Sutton Tools to talk about trends and opportunities in the cutting tools market, and some of the product innovations at the company. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
Established in 1917, Sutton Tools is a family owned company manufacturing cutting tools for the metal cutting industry. The company supplies tools to end-user markets including automotive, medical, mining, power generation, aerospace, defence, and the oil and gas industries. Founded by William Henry Sutton, the company is currently managed by the fourth-generation Sutton family.
At the recent EMO Hannover 2019 trade fair in Germany, Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News sat down with Jeff Boyd, export manager at Sutton Tools, to talk about trends and opportunities in the cutting tools market, and some of the product innovations at the company.
Tells us about yourself and your role in the company.
Jeff Boyd (JB): I have a background in product engineering and technical R&D. That kind of matured into a more of a technical role in the field. In 2011, I headed up to Singapore, where I ran the company’s operation and distribution centre. I was there for nearly five years, running the Asian markets. Currently, my role is to support our teams globally, and bring the necessary market information back to our head office to support our production facility.
We offer a wide range of solutions for the metal cutting industry. We have a division in Europe, based in the Netherlands, which supplies the European region; and then from our Melbourne, Australia headquarters, we are very focused on the Asian market, where we supply various engineered cutting tools, to increase the end-users’ productivity. We have salespeople located in all the major markets in Europe and Asia. And for a company our size, that’s probably where we mainly focus on. In these markets, we have a particular focus on aerospace machining of difficult high strength materials and automotive tapping.
What challenges are you seeing in the industry?
JB: Every market has a different challenge. If I bring it down to one thing, it is finding the right people in those markets. People that are engaged in the market, and have very good relationships, because, we know we have a very good, very stable product at a competitive price and the right quality. But at the end of the day, you really need the right people that you can trust to be able to really find the right solution to offer the customer, to bring the benefit to the customer; to bring these products to them.
What opportunities are you seeing in southeast asia?
JB: I would say Southeast Asia has a very strong aerospace/aviation market. Our experiences and successes in the machining of titaniums and Inconels, particularly in the French aerospace markets over the past few years, have allowed us to leverage this knowledge and open up a number of new opportunities for Sutton Tools in Southeast Asia. That said, automotive tapping applications in Thailand and Indonesia is also of particular interest, when it comes to thread forming of forged steel components.
JB: We have a number of customers, particularly in China, for electric vehicles (EVs), and, you know, a lot of materials there are silicon-based aluminium. We have very good solutions for producing threads when it comes to forming taps for those materials. As the internal combustion engine is seeing a demise, we are focusing on EVs, and diversifying our offer; focusing from an engineering point of view on those materials necessary to produce the electric vehicles.
What products are you highlighting here at the show?
JB: We are highlighting industry-based solutions here, so we have a program for super alloy materials for the aerospace industry. In terms of machining, we have a very good carbide grade and geometry ideal for high metal removal rates with dynamic type machining strategies. We have done a lot of independent testing with our tools, and we have about three sales guys in south of France supporting the market there for the subcontractors to Airbus, which is really seeing a lot of growth in the market, particularly this year. That’s a very important area for this exhibition for us.
But we are also showcasing some new products ready for 2020. We’ve recently purchased some new equipment to produce extra-long series carbides drills. We’re releasing a range of 15xD, 20xD and 30xD carbide drills in 2020, as well as a lot of our taps for automotive tapping applications.
The cutting tools market is very competitive. what makes your products unique in the market?
JB: Sutton Tools is flexible in the way we go about our business. We really like to work with the customers, and the end-users. We are very focused on talking to the end user, understanding what their challenges are, and we try to be flexible enough to offer a solution in that way.
You mentioned you were in philippines recently. what are the opportunities you are seeing in that market?
JB: I was in the Philippines for the PDMEX 2019 event, to support our distributor there. We have a couple of aerospace customers and a few automotive customers in the Philippines. It is kind of similar, the aerospace companies based there are very much machining exotic materials including titanium; and we have a very good relationship with them for many years. There are also quite a few automotive customers, again for tapping. And they are our two strengths, really. We like to do things really well, and we put a lot of our resources into supporting the brand.
According to Research and Markets, the Global Aerospace 3D Printing market was valued at around $ 1246 million in 2018 and is poised to grow at CAGR of more than 15 percent to surpass $ 2857 million by 2024 on account of traditional materials getting replaced with new high strength materials and lightweight, which is an effective way of meeting the goal of decreasing emissions, reducing material usage and increasing fuel efficiency.
Additionally, increasing demand for reducing the overall weight of the aircraft to improve fuel consumption is further fueling growth in the market. Moreover, 3D printing can be used to customise components and parts used in the aircraft industry by efficient use of the overall raw material with high accuracy, thereby promoting growth of 3D printing market. Complicated components can be easily made with the 3D printing technology with reduced errors. Growth of lightweight and fuel-efficient components has led to rise in engine application under material application segment, which is further anticipated to increase in the coming years.
Regionally, the market for Aerospace 3D Printing is gaining traction and expanding to various regions including North America, North America, Europe, South America and Middle East & Africa. Among these regions, North America is the largest market of Aerospace 3D Printing. The growth of north America market is attributed to high adoption rate of 3D printing technology in the aerospace industry. Presence of regional and leading players in the region backed by approval from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the use of 3D printed parts in commercial aircraft, the market of North America is anticipated to grow at substantial rate through 2024.
Major companies are developing advanced technologies and launching new products in order to stay competitive in the market. Other competitive strategies include mergers & acquisitions and new product developments.
The aerospace industry is growing at an exponential rate. In fact, by 2028 it is predicted that upwards of 38,000 aircraft will be in service, a vast increase from the 26,000 being used today. As a result, digitalisation is increasing the reliability and efficiency of aerospace systems across the world. Here, John Young, APAC director at automation parts supplier, EU Automation, explains how digitalisation is transforming the aerospace sector in the Asia-Pacific region.
Like many other industries, digitalisation is transforming the aerospace sector. Currently, there is already an uninterrupted flow of real-time information coming from aircrafts updating ground operations and the pilots on the status of systems, equipment and weather conditions. However, this is simply the beginning of what is possible with the integration of digital technology across the sector.
Across maintenance departments in the industry, data is being monitored and analysed by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems. In fact, airlines in Asia have already begun implementing AI tools for simulation and data modelling of aircraft.
This information can then be used to decide precisely when an aircraft’s components should be replaced or repaired and when other maintenance is required. This integration has helped to ensure that the lifespan and function of individual parts are fully optimised, and the overall aircraft systems are kept safe.
By using AI to monitor and predict requirements, it is possible to ensure that all required maintenance equipment and parts are ready for when the time is right.
In recent years, Virtual Reality (VR) alongside big data has pushed the boundaries of predictive maintenance. Since 2016, the aerospace company Airbus has been making use of this technology to help boost Asia’s maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) sector inside its Hangar of the Future initiative in Singapore.
VR and augmented reality (AR) technologies are disrupting traditional techniques of aerospace maintenance by allowing engineers to see maintenance activities from new and unexplored angles. This means that new data can be captured, and advanced simulations can be created to train maintenance teams for future procedures, as well as allowing personnel and pilots to view and test virtual replicas of the aircraft equipment before physically handling them.
One of the downfalls of rapid uptake in digitalisation is the risk of data security and breach of privacy. This uncertainty applies to the aerospace sector especially, where the increasing connectivity of systems is also putting aircraft at risk of hacking and attack from cybercriminals.
Countries in the Asia-Pacific region have been reported to be 80 percent more likely to be victims of cyber theft as a result of their lack of awareness. Leading suppliers, however, can offer cybersecurity services and build a safe environment of data security and trust, while also helping organisations to avoid and recover quickly from cyber-attacks.
There is no shortage of digital technologies being used in the aerospace sector. These new and rising innovations are disrupting traditional methods of maintenance, operations and repair by providing experts with more intel about vital parts and the mechanical needs of aircraft. However, much of the vast quantities of data that technology such as AR and VR are producing still need to be kept secure. Only then can the digitalisation of aerospace fully flourish and continue to grow.
Autodesk and Airbus are teaming up to fundamentally change how things will be manufactured and built in the aerospace industry of the near future. As part of an ongoing effort, Airbus is reimagining multiple structural aircraft components, applying Autodesk generative design to develop lighter-weight parts that exceed performance and safety standards. In an industry where less weight equals less fuel consumption, using this approach presents a huge opportunity to reduce the adverse effects of air travel on the environment.
Airbus is also looking beyond airplane parts to the processes and spaces for making them, employing generative design for the layout of adaptable, DGNB and LEED certified factories with streamlined logistics to facilitate improved employee work conditions and greater productivity.
Bionic Partition 2.0
Back in 2015, Airbus unveiled its first generative design proof-of-concept. The “bionic partition” is a next-generation version of the wall and jumpseat support structure that divides the passenger compartment from the galley of a plane.
The initial design was promising – 45 percent lighter than the traditional part yet just as strong. Airbus estimated the new design approach could save nearly half a million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year if rolled out across its backlog of A320 planes.
Originally the intention was to fabricate the new partition using metal additive manufacturing. But due to a range of variables in the manufacturing market and materials requirements, it became clear that an alternative fabrication process would be necessary. Fortunately, Autodesk generative design technology has continued to mature and is now capable of optimising for multiple advanced manufacturing techniques during the design phase of product development.
For Airbus, this meant they could use generative design to create a plastic, 3D-printed mold for the partition, and then cast the part in an alloy that’s already qualified for flight. Bionic partition 2.0 is just as strong and light as its predecessor and can be fabricated at scale more affordably.
“The revised design makes the bionic partition much more viable for production. The first prototype is in production, which we hope to finish before the end of the year,” said Bastian Schaefer, the designer at Airbus who has been leading the collaboration with Autodesk. “The process and technology have evolved to where we can now manufacture multiple units at a considerably lower cost.”
Airbus is in the process of utilising generative design to rethink other structural aircraft components, including the leading edge of the vertical tail plane (VTP) of the A320. The purpose of a VTP (or vertical stabiliser) on an airplane is to provide directional stability and reduce aerodynamic inefficiency caused by side-to-side movement.
Generative design is enabling the team to evaluate hundreds of design alternatives that all meet objectives for VTP stiffness, stability and mass.
Positive responses to what generative design could do for aircraft components led Airbus to explore what the technology might do for other parts of its business. Earlier this year, the team began thinking about how generative design could be applied to the building design, layout and workflows of its factories.
Generative design provided two paths that Airbus is currently considering: a bigger building with an unconventional footprint, or the same factory elements optimised to fit into a smaller rectangular footprint.
“Generative design is helping us create a more sustainable architectural design that better accounts for critical human factors and work conditions,” said Schaefer. “It has also expanded our way of thinking and our approach to design by overcoming preconceived notions and blind spots. Whichever design we choose, we know the factory will function more efficiently and will be less costly to build.”
How does the aerospace industry manage to optimise its manufacturing processes and produce more parts of the highest quality in less time? Simon Côté, product manager at Creaform, explains.
The aerospace industry is known for manufacturing parts with critical dimensions and tight tolerances, all of which must undergo high-demanding inspections. Given the scale of the controls to be carried out on these parts, it is hardly surprising that quality people prefer to turn to coordinate measuring machines (CMMs). After all, this highly accurate measuring instrument has their full confidence.
However, directing all inspections to the CMM may cause other non-negligible problems: CMMs are hyper-loaded, generating bottlenecks during inspections, slowing down the manufacturing processes, and causing production and delivery delays.
Is it possible to unload the CMMs so that they are fully available for the final quality controls? How can we improve manufacturing processes to produce more parts faster and, above all, of better quality? And in the event of a quality issue occurring during production, is it possible to identify the root cause more quickly in order to minimise the delays that could impact schedules and production deliveries?
This article aims to explain how important players in the aerospace industry have managed to unload their CMMs and improve their manufacturing processes without ever neglecting the quality of parts with critical dimensions and tight tolerances, such as castings, gears, pump covers, stators, and bearing housings. Solutions developed by the aerospace industry can serve as a guide for other industries because, after all, the entire industrial sector aims to optimise its manufacturing processes and produce more parts of better quality in less time.
Bottlenecks at the CMMs
Aerospace companies, and many other industries, require that manufactured parts be inspected with the CMM, because they have full confidence in the accuracy of its measurements. This exclusive trust, however, creates certain challenges.
Indeed, the CMM is a highly accurate metrology tool that is often used to inspect non-critical dimensions, leaving little availability for final inspections and important dimensions. Therefore, quality controls are delayed due to these bottlenecks at the CMMs. Moreover, the CMM is a measuring instrument that requires a specialised workforce to build and execute the programming. If the company does not have the human resources to do the inspection programs, the parts will accumulate as they wait to be inspected. Therefore, buying more CMMs will not solve the bottleneck issue; what is needed is the specialised manpower to operate them.
But that is not easy to find these days.
Quality problem detected at the end of the manufacturing process
Too often, manufacturing companies wait until the end of the manufacturing process to perform quality controls on manufactured parts. Moreover, not only critical dimensions are inspected at the CMM, but also all other dimensions, which lengthens the process, often resulting in delivery delays.
So, what happens if a quality problem is detected only at the end of the manufacturing process? The quality assurance team must then go through the whole process to investigate and find the root cause. This analysis may generate downtime and production delays, which will impact the part delivery and customer satisfaction.
Incorporate an alternative measurement method to detect quality problems faster
Rather than inspecting all dimensions at the CMM, which requires long programming time and involves qualified resources, the aerospace industry uses a faster and simpler alternative measurement method to inspect less critical dimensions. One example of this alternative method is a metrology-grade 3D scanner called the HandySCAN BLACK.
The HandySCAN BLACK 3D scanner excels due to its scan quality, accuracy, and measurement reliability. Certified to ISO 17025 and compliant with the German standard VDI/VDE 2634 Part 3, the accuracy of the HandySCAN BLACK is 25μm. Using a safety factor of 5x, for instance (i.e., five times more accurate than the smallest tolerance to be measured), the aerospace industry uses the HandySCAN BLACK for inspecting features with tolerances starting at 125μm (5x 25μm) or more.
With its 11 blue laser crosses, combined with new high-resolution cameras and custom optical components, the HandySCAN BLACK can perform up to 1,300,000 measurements per second in addition to generating an automatic and instant mesh. This means that, unlike a cloud file, the generated mesh is already lightened and processed, which reduces the need for data filtering and lessens the variability on data processing. Thus, the aerospace industry regains the same confidence it has in the CMM, because the data obtained with the HandySCAN BLACK are consistent and repeatable.
Moreover, since the HandySCAN BLACK is a portable device, it can be moved to any stage of the manufacturing process to perform an intermediate check without having to move parts. For example, it allows a pump to be inspected before machining to ensure that there is enough material and after machining to validate that the dimensions are accurate. The HandySCAN BLACK can also be used to check the dimensions of gears before and after their heat treatment. Only a portable metrology tool enables quality and production teams to perform these intermediate checks quickly and easily during the manufacturing process.
Unload the CMMs for the final quality controls
CMMs will always be the preferred measuring instruments for final inspections. However, these highly accurate devices must be available to perform the final quality controls. In other words, they must not be loaded down by all kinds of intermediate controls during the manufacturing process or by various investigations while troubleshooting production issues.
This is precisely what the HandySCAN BLACK is doing for the aerospace industry: unloading the CMMs by diverting less critical inspections to an alternative measurement tool. An in-house survey quantified that 50 percent to 90 percent of the dimensions could be measured with the scanner, allowing the CMMs to be available and used to their full potential and full accuracy for critical dimensions with tighter tolerances.
Improve manufacturing process
The more the parts are inspected during their manufacturing process, the less tedious the final inspection will be. Indeed, if the parts—whether pumps, gears, or casting—have already been inspected before and after their machining and before and after their heat treatment, the risk of detecting unexpected problems is lessened.
The final inspection on the CMM, now widely available, will only serve to control the critical dimensions, as all other features will have already been validated during the manufacturing process. These intermediate checks, performed during production, not only accelerate the manufacturing process, but also improve the quality of parts while producing parts in higher quantity. The same in-house survey quantified that intermediate checks with the HandySCAN BLACK improved the manufacturing process by 30 percent, either by producing 30 percent more parts during the same production time or producing the same number of parts 30 percent more quickly.
Find the root cause in quality assurance
Finally, the HandySCAN BLACK helps identify the root cause of quality issues that arise during production. Since it is accurate, fast, and portable, it can find the source of problems faster in order to minimise delays that could impact schedules and production deliveries.
The aerospace industry values the CMM for quality controls because of its high accuracy and repeatability. However, aerospace companies agree that the performance of portable scanners, such as the HandySCAN BLACK, positions this alternative method as a must to optimise its manufacturing processes. This fast, portable, metrology-grade measurement tool is increasingly proving itself to be an indispensable tool for performing quality controls during the manufacturing process in order to unload the CMMs and detect problems more quickly.