Digital validation for 3D printed aerospace plastics

1 min read

Hexagon and Stratasys have announced a new digital solution to help validate the integrity of plastic aerospace components at the design stage.

Using Hexagon’s Digimat modelling software, engineers will now be able to predict how parts printed with Stratasys’ ULTEM 9085 filament should behave when made using approved Stratasys printers. The two companies jointly created a virtual material model through physical testing that includes detailed information about the material’s internal microstructure. It’s claimed that the new tool could help customers reduce part testing and validation from two-to-three years to as little as six months.

“The aerospace industry is continuously pushing the boundaries of performance and innovation, but current confidence in the performance of additive manufactured parts is mostly limiting its application to highly specialised metal parts,” said Guillaume Boisot, head of ICME, Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division.

“We are excited that this new development in our partnership with Stratasys will help compress the design and testing phases and improve understanding of plastic behaviour and speed up innovation across the sector.”

ULTEM 9085 is currently used by companies such as Airbus to produce parts for aircraft cabin interiors, such as bracketry, pieces for cable routing, covers and duct components. Certification standards for these parts are stringent, and the material benefits from flame retardant capabilities combined with high strength. The new digital tool will enable engineers to see how parts manufactured from this filament will interact with the other elements in a complex cabin system, providing more confidence at the design stage.

“The dual needs to make complex parts lighter and produce low volumes economically has meant that aerospace has pulled 3D printing towards production and put the sector ahead of the curve in use of the technology,” said Scott Sevcik, vice president of Stratasys’ Aerospace Business Segment.

“But this also means it’s the first industry to identify several challenges, a key one being the need for a digital toolset to provide confidence in 3D printed parts. Our partnership with Hexagon is a big step forward in solving that, as it gives engineers the same upfront design intelligence for 3D printing, that they have for traditional processes.”