A copernican revolution in manufacturing
The advent of additive manufacturing marks a radical change in the production landscape. With conventional manufacturing methods, parts are generally cast, forged and then machined, a “subtractive” process. Like the 3D printers now familiar to the general public, industrial additive manufacturing machines build up a part layer by layer, working from a digital model. The raw material (metallic, ceramic, or polymer powder) is deposed on the work surface in layers 20 to 100 microns thick, then melted by a laser or electron beam. The advantage of this technology is its overall speed and flexibility, especially to produce or repair parts on demand. At the same time, it is capable of making single-piece parts with complex shapes, which would be impossible using conventional techniques.
15 additive manufacturing machines at Safran
Innovation in action at Safran
Additive manufacturing has been used for several years now by various Safran companies. These processes continue to be developed and refined by a team of 20 specialized engineers at Safran Tech, the Group’s Research & Technology center at Paris-Saclay. The team is tasked with research, of course (including powders, metallurgy, inspections, numerical simulation, etc.), but also with supporting Safran companies in the design and certification of an increasing number of complex components, and making sure they offer the same reliability as those made by conventional methods. Different parts are already in production, including:
- Combustor fuel injectors and swirlers, made using the selective laser melting (SLM) process, for the Arrano and Ardiden 3 turboshaft engines (Safran Helicopter Engines, Bordes);
- Most of the parts on the Saphir 4.2 auxiliary power unit (APU), made using the powder bed laser melting process (Safran Power Units, Toulouse).
Safran Aircraft Engines’ Villaroche and Gennevilliers plants are also already using additive manufacturing in their production processes: bi-component molds for lost wax casting, the manufacture of small tools, fast prototyping of tooling to be tested before machining them out of metal, etc. Production parts using the additive manufacturing process will be introduced on LEAP engines by the end of 2017.
In April 2017, Safran Corporate Ventures acquired a stake in Prodways Group, a European leader in 3D printing for industrial and professional applications. The two companies also signed a strategic partnership aimed at developing printable materials and assembly techniques using inorganic compounds, such as ceramics or metals.
© Adrien Daste / Safran
© Adrien Daste / Safran
© Cyril Abad / CAPA Pictures / Safran