Real World Use Of Additive Manufacturing In Production & Sustainment

Scott Sevcik

VP of Aerospace at Stratasys

Learning Objectives

Stratasys will share rapidly scaling examples of how 3D printing is having a real world impact on manufacturing today. From optimized original equipment parts to a proliferation of printed spares to solve aftermarket supply chain inefficiency, the reality is even more exciting than the hype.

"I was able to recover 9 weeks by finding that we could print our pattern rather than going through the traditional multi-step process. "

Scott Sevcik

VP of Aerospace at Stratasys


Hello, my name is Scott Sevcik. I lead the aerospace business for Stratasys. Stratasys is one of the oldest companies in 3d printing—a little over 30 years—and dates back to the invention of a 3d printing process called FDM or Fused Deposition Modeling. More generally, this process is known as Material Extrusion or Fused Filament Fabrication.

When people talk about 3d printing, many think of it as a single technology. But in reality, there are eight distinct additive technologies recognized by the ASTM, and there are new variants continuing to be developed. As a result, the reality of 3d printing can get pretty confusing. One day, you see hyper realistic prints that are being used for animating stop motion movies like missing link, which was done with our material jetting technology PolyJet. The next day, you hear about printers for a few $1,000 being deployed across the country in schools, which is happening with their MakerBot printers. This is where I focus, you hear about print parts going on airplanes, rockets, cars, and trains.

Now, I’ll focus in on the FDM technology and walk through a number of different ways. FDM is being used to create not prototypes, but actual parts being used on actual vehicles around the world right now. 3d printing is an amazing industry, but it’s challenging because of how dynamic, how fast it’s changing—all the potential. That results in a lot of hype that we have to wade through. I came to the industry because of the hype. I love hearing about the next new material new application. But after six years in the industry, it’s not the hype that keeps me moving, it’s the reality. See amazing value our customers are realizing from having these technologies mature.

For example, imagine you are responsible for maintaining rollingstock trains across Europe. Because each city has unique requirements, each train’s system is a little different. As a result, you have thousands of part numbers. So skirt panel, like the one on this table breaks, and the request comes in for replacement. What do you do? Why don’t you check inventory? What if you are out of that specific panel? Who is the supplier? Are they still in business? What’s the minimum order quantity? For Siemens, they used to have to order 15 when they needed one. Now when they need one, they print it, finish it, and put it into service. As you can imagine, this is a complete game changer for Siemens sustainment activity, and a complete disruption for the supplier those counting and selling them 15 skirt panels.

Turns out the US Air Force has the exact same challenge. They support a fleet of aging auto production aircraft. So we work to stabilize and mature the FTM process to the point that the Air Force decided they could start producing certain spare and replacement parts on their own. This is a laboratory panel for a C5. There are only about a hundred C5s flying, and a new one hasn’t been built in three decades. Having the ability to economically produce one laboratory panel when you need gets us out of the area of the $10,000 toilet seat.

Replacement parts are where Airbus started, too. The light colored piece in the back of this car seat was the first 3d printed part Airbus certified for flight as a single piece for an aircraft nearing retirement. The supplier was out of business as a perfect opportunity to test the technology and see it. 3d printing, FDM in particular, was ready for flight. After proving they could flight certify a spare part, the next opportunity was in what they call their speed shop. These parts are examples of secondary parts on the A350 bill of materials. As Airbus was coming to the delivery of its first aircraft, there were parts that were late to the line, and then qualified FDM for flight give them the ability to print these and other parts and have them immediately ready rather than waiting on their traditional supply lines. As a result, the first few A350s were delivered with about 1100 printed parts. From there, parts started buying their way onto the bill of materials as primary parts with hundreds of printed parts offline on every A350.

You can see where they’ve gone now. After starting with replacement parts designed for traditional technologies, the familiar familiarity and trust and FDM is now allowing Airbus to really start unlocking potential. Part like this can’t be produced with traditional tune, but it can be printed. The spider like geometry allows for an additional 15% weight savings and with only a few per aircraft. It’s an ideal part for printing. It’s not just the aircraft OEMs either, it’s more of both downstream and upstream in the Supply Chain. Here are printed components that deal produces for line fit curtain header for commercial aircraft.

In the other direction, here’s an end user in China Eastern Airlines printing custom components like this iPad holder for the cockpit as well as replacement parts like a frequently broken newspaper holder in the first class compartment. Just as exciting as in the air, we also have FDM printer components in use for space. This is a component from a 16 piece ducting system on the Atlas 5 rocket. Before there were 16 printed plastic ducts, there were 140 metal components in order magnitude reduction in part count, which cuts procurement risk, assembly risk, and assembly labor. Ultimately, about a 60% cost savings in introducing this application.

On orbit today, you’ll find this piece. This is a fiber optic cable routing bracket we produce for NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite. In this example, not only did we print the part, but we invented a new material to meet the needs of the application. NASA came with a challenging set of requirements and asked how to make the tag material you’ve seen on some of these previous slides meet the few requirements it did not ready. Instead, we developed a new material to meet those needs. Few months later, a different division of NASA came to ask for the exact same set of requirements to be met. This time, we were ready with the material and it is now used extensively in the Orion crew capsule. All of the black you see in the picture below is printed. This is a hatch cover for the Orion capsule.

To take a second to summarize why people are printing parts for vehicles, we can look to two different sub segments: Manufacturers are leveraging cost savings at low volumes due to the elimination of tune, which drives traditional volume costs, which in turn enables higher mix, or they’re gaining functionality, weight savings, or streamlined supply chain. The aftermarket is saving lead time, eliminating expedite fees and inventories. They are better able to handle obsolescence issues, and are able to produce parts more economically when needed.

All that said, right now the even bigger area of adoption for 3d printing and manufacturing is in the field of tooling. Here, you see a variety of basic fixtures and assembly aids in use on the Opel production line. This enables tremendous flexibility in individual ergonomic optimization. In addition to flight parts like the docks on the Atlas 5 rocket, United Launch Alliance is extensively used in printed tools like this. A drill guide like this used to have a 4 to 6 week lead time, while right now has a new validated tool in 4 to 6 days.

In wire harness production, Liberty Electronics started printing a variety of fixtures to simplify their challenging very complex process. Simple tools like this custom block for holding a small terminal contributed to a 300% increase in productivity. Ergonomic issues are down and job retention is up because of tools as simple as this.

Eckart has some more complex tools like this one. There are six different printed parts in this assembly. It’s loaded with bolts, and with a single turn, it places five bolts into the hub, which are then tightened by a traditional air wrench. Before this tool, somebody had to place each bolt individually by hand. A little bit of efficiency can go a long way like that. This fixture for placing door seals saves four seconds per operation. That’s not much. But when this tool is used for 250,000 operations per year, that four seconds amounts to more than a month and time saved. It’s not always about a more efficient tool. Sometimes, it’s about the efficiency of getting the right tool quickly.

In this example, the US Navy returned a damaged Harrier to fly in one week, because they could very quickly design and print forming blocks to bend metal over. They needed the metal to be bent into a very specific shape for this one time repair. Because of 3d printing, they could get the exact tool geometry they needed literally in the press a few buttons. That speed is a defining feature of 3d printed tools. In this example, Rock West was able to produce a replacement radon for this helicopter in a matter of days. Traditional tooling for this radon had an 8 week lead time. With printing, they had their tool in 3 days and were able to deliver the end part before their traditional tool whatever arrived.

Printed tools show this kind of impact not just in repair and replace scenarios, but not original equipment manufacturing as well. This is an example of a layup tool used by Dassault Falcon jet. Before it was a $60,000 tool with a 6 week lead time and a mass that required a forklift to move, after it can be held in one hand, produced in a few days for a few thousand dollars. At first blush, that’s a massive savings and tooling expense. On second thought, it’s an enabler for entirely new business models. If your tooling is so cost effective, but it is essentially disposable, then maybe you don’t need to go all the way to printing your customized parts. With inexpensive tooling like this, you can begin introducing some of that highly desired customization and higher mix without taking that big leap all the way into print parts. That’s a thought that gets even more appealing when you start talking about metal. Metal is still on aircraft only where it has to be or it’s really cheap. Otherwise, it’s gone to composite or plastic for weight savings.

There’s a lot of investment right now going into printed metal parts. But what if you could get that same benefit with a 3d printed tool? That’s what’s happening here. Printed investment casting patterns. This is actually the application that opened my eyes to the benefit of 3d printing when I was still in the aerospace industry. I was working on an engine sensor program, and was brought in to recover bad casting procurement that had set us months behind schedule. I was able to recover 9 weeks by finding that we could print our pattern rather than going through the traditional multi step process.

That brings us to summary again. Now, spanning across the usages of additive manufacturing and production, from functional prototypes and surrogate parts, which I didn’t discuss, to assembly and fabrication tooling, to production parts of other original equipment, manufacturing, and aftermarket. I’ll just spend a useful description for you. I hope it also shows that while there’s still plenty of hype in 3d printing, some of the most exciting and impactful examples in the industry are 100% reality right now. Looking forward to your questions. Thank you,

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