For this major review carried out for the Society of Automotive Engineers, I interviewed engineers at the global leader in additive manufacturing (AM) technology. A few of the contributing companies include EOS, Liebherr-Aerospace, Renishaw, DM3D and Norsk Titanium. I brought their views together to understand the state of the art in AM for structural aerospace components.
Additive manufacturing (AM) is currently being used to produce many certified aerospace components. However, significant advantages of AM are not exploited due to unresolved issues associated with process control, feedstock materials, surface finish, inspection, and cost. Components subject to fatigue must undergo surface finish improvements to enable inspection. This adds cost and limits the use of topology optimization. Continued development of process models is also required to enable optimization and understand the potential for defects in thin-walled and slender sections. Costs are high for powder-fed processes due to material costs, machine costs, and low deposition rates. Costs for wire-fed processes are high due to the extensive postprocess machining required. In addition, these processes are limited to low-complexity features. Incremental improvements in all of these areas are being made, but a step change could potentially be achieved by hybrid processes, which use wire feedstock to deposit the bulk of the part and powder for fine detail.
The full report can be purchased from SAE International.