Additive manufacturing –
helping push the boundaries of space and science
According to Grace Hopper – a pioneer of computer programming and a United States Navy rear admiral – “One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions!” Anyone working to push the boundaries of space and science applications knows that ‘almost right’ is useless. Precision is everything. That is why here at Frazer-Nash we place a priority on precision in our additive manufacturing (AM) processes.
Focusing on the metallic side of additive manufacturing technology, we concentrate specifically on laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF). More commonly referred to as either DMLS or SLM, it enables us to create the highest quality cast parts that help make space and science dreams a reality.
Additive manufacturing for the space industry has come a long way over the past 30 years. Developed as a tool for speedy prototyping, it now enables us to work with many of the leading organisations in the space sector, helping to give form to innovative ideas and placing them into the hands of engineers worldwide. 3D printing for the space industry is already supporting the creation of more efficient rockets and low-cost satellites and helping to lower the cost of other space applications.
The story is much the same in AM for science applications. From cryogenics to instrumentation, scientific developments are being assisted by the creation of precision engineered components and systems and AM is helping scientists to discover ever more about this world we all share.
Step 1 – Build Preparation
Preparation is everything for a precision end result. This is done using Renishaw’s QuantAM software. As well as part orientation and support structure generation (if required), the software creates 1000s of sliced layers of CAD data and this ‘slice file’ is then sent to the machine.
Step 2 – Loading Build Plate
The build platform, that can vary in size and thickness depending on machine and material, is loaded into the chamber and secured.
Step 3 – Loading Powder
The powder used for the build is sieved to ensure that uniformity is maintained throughout. It is then loaded into the machine and topped up if required during the build.
Step 4 – Remove Air
To ensure quality throughout the process, airborne contaminates are reduced by evacuating the build chamber.
Step 5 - Protective Atmosphere
The chamber is then back filled with an inert gas (Renishaw machines use Argon), helping reduce oxidisation during the build.
Step 6 – Powder Delivery
The ‘recoater arm’ then places a layer of metal powder, usually 0.02—0.08mm thick, across the build platform.
Step 7 – Laser Melting
Using the information from the ‘slice file’, the laser traces the desired shape into the powder bed.
Step 8 – Building in Layers
When the laser tracing has finished the layer, the build plate then drops down and steps 6 ,7 and 8 are repeated until the full component is built.
Base plates are usually made from the same type of material as the one being printed. The build platform is typically 250 x 250 mm, meaning that the available build chamber size is around 250 x 250 x 280mm high.
Parts are built vertically up from the build platform. However, the advantage of using L-PBF is that different parts can be produced on the same build, whether these are variants on a similar design or completely different designs.
Get in touch
Contact Frazer-Nash Manufacturing for a discussion of your specific requirements.
Call us on +44 (0)1730 230 340 or submit your enquiry using this form to request a call back.