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  • Writer's pictureMatthias Bringezu

Peter Sander [AIRBUS Operations GmbH] Keynote at RapidTech 2015 Erfurt [Germany]



Peter Sander Manager ‘Emerging Technologies & Concepts’ at AIRBUS Operations GmbH Germany gave a keynote presentation on Additive Manufacturing at AIRBUS at this years (2015) RapidTech in Erfurt Germany. The presentation was recorded and uploaded to Youtube. Unfortunately this presentation was held in German . So I took the time on a long flight to write this translation. I have translated the presentation as close as possible to the spoken word but as I am not a professional translator there is no guarantee for correctness or completeness of the translation.

Speaker: This is second keynote on Opportunities and Challenges of Additive Manufacturing for industrial production. We would like to welcome Peter Sander from the Airbus Operation GmbH in Hamburg. As the vice president he is managing the area ‘Emerging Technologies and Concepts’. He has been in aero space industry for 33 years. Industrial engineering, tool design, manufacturing engineering is his expertise. He was involved in the A380 project and also shares his expertise frequently in many workshops and presentations about Additive Manufacturing in aero industry. Peter Sander will inform us about 3D-printing in aeronautical industry and will provide a prognosis and demand analysis in business and production.”

Peter Sander: “Thank you very much, also thank you to the committee; Dr. Klemp and so on for the invitation.

Ladies and gentlemen, now it’s getting practical. I am leading the area ‘Emerging Technologies and Concepts’ now since 4,5 years. Before of that I was working in the production area for 29 years. Though we are searching for new technologies and concepts to bring these to the point that AIRBUS says ‘this is what we want to do’. I have started with 3D-printing was also 4,5 years ago. In between we did Bag2Go something you will be able to purchase end of the year. This was a joined project with T-Systems and RIMOWA. You need to know that about 3000 suitcases get lost worldwide every hour. This causes the airlines worldwide a damage of $ 2,4 Billion and we have developed a solution for this, a great product. Just wait for Christmas.

So lets have a look at 3D-printing . I would like to show you an overview how we are seeing it globally. After this I would like to talk about the process and projects we have done so far. Within these 4,5 years we are looking back at over 130 metal projects. Lets begin with the Terry Wohlers Report, most of you will know it. Terry Wohlers has been doing this report for over the last 20 years. So the interesting thing is that we can observe a growth rate of 30 percent in the market regarding machines and materials over the last three years. Additive Manufacturing. Recently we had a workshop with Terry Wohlers and together with Professor Emmelmann at the Laser Zentrum Nord. The resume about what we have done at AIRBUS so far is in the report and it says, more or less, that he is convinced that we are leading especially regarding the printing of complex metal components. I believe this is a great acknowledgement and there is not much more to achieve right now. In November we had a project with the shipping company MAERSK. They are working on to base AM-manufacturing cells on their vessels for spare part supply. You may know that there are AM manufacturing cells in Afghanistan supply the army. They are printing parts for trucks and weapons. These cells costing $2,8 Mio. and are small manufacturing units. Since November there is a small 10 by 10 cm polymer printer based on the ISS (read more about this project here Made In Space). I got the chance to discuss the program with the head of R&D who pointed out that they are working on complete closed loop cycles. Their aim is to send up just a 3D model, print the part and use it and than recycle it to make a new product from it. I think this really scopes out into the future and it may show what might be possible tomorrow.

What’s now two years old but what really fascinated me is that rocket engine parts can be printed. Especially great is that this diffusor used to be a 115 part assembly and is now just two parts. So what we have is a 115 : 2 part approach and this is not some sort of prototype, this is a rocket engine. At SPACE-X we can see entire burners. You may have heard this announcement three months ago from Australia together with China, where they printed an APU. That’s an auxiliary power unit and all its components got 3D printed. This is certainly a milestone.

You may have heard the announcements of leading jet-engine OEMs manufacturer who run hollowed blades inside of jet engines. This has also nothing to do with Rapid Prototyping anymore. Since 1,5 years we have a so called ALM (Additive Layer Manufacturing) road map team on AIRBUS group level. I can tell you that we have in all parts of the AIRBUS group flying AM parts but most of them you won’t be able to see. For example we have 25 cm titanium bracket produced on an ARCAM EBM system. This component is holding an antenna on a satellite in space since 2011.

Since 2006 there is a flying AM part on then EUROFIGHTER / TYPHOON jet and that’s actually how I got into this. It’s a stainless steel tube and part of the oxygen supply of the pilot with an operational pressure of 200 bar. In April 2014 was the first flight of a helicopter part. It’s an exhaust part of 480 mm printed in one go by POLYSHAPE in France on a CONCEPT LASER X-line system. Everyone who knows a about sheet metal forming can image how much effort it takes to produce such a part. First flight in April. So we have moved quite far regarding the application of AM.

The last time I have been talking here was in 2012, so exactly three years ago, and I have showed exactly this chart. I wanted to create this big-bang scenario because we had figured out and believed in to be able to realize significant weight reduction and lead time reduction by tool-free production. At that time it was the plan to operate about 100 machines by the 1st of January 2016 and reduce the mass of the A350 by one ton. I can tell you the plan is still the same but now we are aiming to achieve this by end of 2018.

I would like to show you some details. Premium AEROTEC, former 100% owned by AIRBUS nowadays 100% owned by an AIRBUS daughter company. Premium AEROTEC is operating a CONCEPT LASER M2 system since one year. The result of the industrial analysis shows a 50 percent reduction of production steps if machining from billet is avoided. So we still have the metal manufacturing chain but we have only half of the production steps. Since about a year we do have FDM process, STRATASYS with ULTEM material, qualified. We have a flying spare part since since February 2012. We aim to have the laser beam and electro beam powder bed process qualified by the end of the year (2015). If we look at the machines and three German manufacturers we can see significant in build envelope sizes and productivity in recent years. Of course we like to see more in the future. What is very important for us, showed at a XLine system, that the shielding gas processes/strategies needs to be improved further. So the process needs to assured against Oxygen contamination. Oxygen needs to be eliminated completely as this is a possible risk of quality which has to be avoided. AeroSud in South Africa is a supplier and produces with 650 employees aero parts. AeroSud has built a custom metal AM system. South Africa has a lots of Titanium and instead of just digging ore out and shipping it to Germany they would like to produce powder and make aero parts. The machine has a 5kW laser and a foot print of 2 meter by 60 by 60 centimeters. A few weeks ago I had a phone conference with them and I will come back to this later to tell you what we think what can be done with this.

This is a slide of Professor Emmelmann and I would support this view. Within the next 10 to 20 years we do expect an increase in build speed by factor 100 to 1000. Latest by than nobody will still machine from billet. I believe the announcement of HP shows us something like that. If HP makes this machine available like this, we will be 100 times faster than the FDM process and we are highly interested in the polyamide area to get such systems in the future. We at AIRBUS have created a 3D printing platform and I am one of three project leaders. We have streams for polymers and metals and we have a target to produce 30 tons of parts per month by end of 2018. This is a real challenge as it will require over 100 of the largest printers. I can tell you that we are working on the process qualification. End of the year (2015) Titanium will be fully qualified. It’s the way that we have different safety classifications for parts. For example the handle of a cargo door is not very relevant for safety but there are highly dynamical loaded parts which have a different classification. The process qualification for low risk parts will be accomplished by end of the year. For loaded brackets of class 2.2 by middle of next year. We almost finalized the material qualification and it’s documentation. So there will be a documentation for our suppliers and also for us where we will describe on 17 pages how the material should be handled. As for for the laser and electron beam process this documents are almost ready and the documents will describe how the powder has to handled to end up with parts ready to fly. Further we have made a summary all activities in Europe because the essence is that we have a new way how we can design. For this all of our designers have to be retrained and software needs to be developed. For this we have concentrated all required resources and we will spend about Euro 4,2 million we will spend only in this year. The majority will be spend for design methods. We introduced a four day practice training where people bring in their own part. On the first day they will learn the basics, the second day they will start to redesign their part it and on Friday they will take their printed part with them. With regards to strategy we made a core decision after AIRBUS stopped making own parts a couple of years ago. In September last year we agreed to a ‘make-or-buy-strategy’ as we learned how much know-how we can gain during development of this new parts. What’s important to point out that we usually don’t struggle with the technology guys but with the people in finance who are always saying the ‘the numbers doesn’t work out’. What you have to see is that there are many influencing factors and that it is a very dynamic model. This 30% growth rate of the market shows a lot of progress in the development of the technology. To give you an example, we created a parametric cost driving model. One parameter is the powder price and if we say the powder price is X today and y tomorrow and the day after it will be Z and we are updating this every 6 months. We have scanned about 500 aircraft components and we can say these ones are a business case today and these ones are not. But if I change a parameter these ones are a business case too and we can look at these. It too me half a year to make such a deal with my colleagues in finance but it represents the fast development of this technology. So if you just take a brochure, look at the price and its’ productivity and you say, that this is not a business case and you knew it before, this is certainly the wrong approach. Further we work together with three faculties. On the one hand this is Professor Kesel in Bremen focusing on Bionic and Professor Emmelmann at the Laser Zentrum Nord and Professor Ploshikhin in Bremen. He is developing new methods of how to simulate the heat input during the process with the aim to create tools to find the best orientation of the parts without trying 15 times before. So eventually we will have tools which can do this in an optimized way in the future.

I would like to show you a few parts as I just got three new requests this week. So far we have over 130 parts we have done or we are doing right now. I won’t have to explain to you that tools are always a winner. Over there is a load-pad something you wouldn’t initially think of. It’s a transfer unit for a test on a landing flap. In this case it is a business case through the weight savings on the test system. The flight test installation is flying already and it’s titanium in this case. So this are unique parts which are required on a test machine for half a year only. Further we have heaps of of polymer parts. I have read the Stratasys story with 1000 flying parts on a series jet-liner I have to disagree but I had not been asked. But it’s heading that direction. Right now we had 78 components in the A350 with 500 parts/brackets in series jet-liners. But we have do hundreds of parts in flight test installations. So I would like to correct the announcement of Stratasys a little bit. We do have the possibility what is a really interesting aspect. The customer approaches us and needs a technical modification for his fleet for 450 parts for a certain amount of time. The customer couldn’t find a single supplier capable of doing this. We were able to produce this parts on our Stratasys system and provide Qantas with these 450 parts within 5 weeks. With this we were able to gain back a contract which was with a supplier before, just by being reactive. We have a first flying spare part also in FDM and it’s flying since 2014. This was an old 2D-drawing and we asked a student to make a 3D-model and a poly amide part within one week. This was presented to the guys in charge of the spare parts and that’s how it started. We have been in the finale of the ‘Digital Business Innovation Award’ of the Handelsblatt newspaper because we announced that there is the possibility that we won’t have to deliver physical spare parts in the future. As there is the possibility to provide certified manufacturers, for example Lufthansa Technik, to sell them only a 3D-model and they produce the part on their own. This will save a lot of logistic, storage and so on. We are at industry 4.0 and such things are enabled by our technology.

Now I would like to come to our wonderful bracket. I think there isn’t a single website about 3D-printing which doesn’t show this bracket. It’s wonderful flying titanium and this is how it looks when it is mounted. Unfortunately you can’t see it as it is above a cabin element. Talking about design you have to imagine that we thought this part will withstand a load of 3,5 tons. Required would have been only 2,7 tons but if you do a test campaign you don’t want to stuff up and so you play save and just make it a little stronger. So we tested up to 7 tons and then the screws came off and we had to use a different test rig. Though we have done it twice on a 20 tons press and this bloody thing were able to withstand 12,5 to 14 tons in x. What means it is over sized by four times. So we haven’t fully understood as our models to calculate are not matching to what we is possible. Because we always ensure all different cases but this is about tensile stress, the only load case mother nature knows. So if you calculate this part just for tensile stress you will end up with 12,5 tons. So you see we will have to improve our models to calculate. But we have learned one thing, the material properties are excellent if we are on top of all processes. Now I have a few other examples. A cargo roll, it’s over there. It’s a mass produced parts and you need 8500 per months. Coming back to the finance parts. Usually you would say this is not a business case printing Aluminum. One roll for a A350 costs ready $ 12,5. If you print 30 in one go you are still looking at more than Euro 20. But I passed this on to a machine manufacturer. So I said build me a machine by 2017 which can produce 8500 rolls per months and the cost per roll may not exceed Euro 5. So I have turned this around and I am very confident we can archive this.

We have developed very interesting parts. So currently I am building a small series of titanium parts with weight savings of 50%. Further we are able to reduce the time for mounting from two shifts to half an hour. So you have to rethink of the product. This is a bracket holding a hydraulic barrel which is conventional an assembly of 126 parts joined with rivets. In the future we will print this part in one piece. You have to imagine what this means. So this is a 126:1 approach. So you won’t need 125 tools you have to store, there is no assembly, there is no logistic to get 126 parts in place and as you know there is always one missing. So it’s not just the cost of the product, you have to see the entire process.

Hydraulic, 12,5 Mio. cycles we have done this together with LIEBHERR. Such a valve unit for a spoiler will, so god will, fly on our test machine end of this year. 50% weight reduction. Cast parts especially double walled fuel pipes are highly interesting. There are business cases even with the slow machine we currently have. So instead of having 14 parts we print it in one part and we have made whole series of this already. This is the first set of a small batch production with approved series documentation. Printed double walled tubes in titanium. I can tell you tool costs for this 5 parts are 500k EUR which are not needed any longer. What you need are printers to make this 30 tons of parts. So everyone who has printers may let me know soon. So there is an interesting aspect. Premium AEROTEC is a is a CNC-machining supplier and outsources about 30%. They are looking for suppliers who can print. So you can become relative easily a sub-supplier for the printing step in Aero-industry. So this is a hint I can give you for example by supplying Premium AEROTEC . What we have created is a network of suppliers and have this way 8 machines available. Depending on demand, capacity, material and time we can shift jobs to one or the other to to cover all these prototypes. We have built this heat exchanger in one go just to see how it works. Most interesting is the reduced time of development. So directly from 3D and 48 hours later removing the part from the printer, 2hours of flushing, testing, optimization in CAD, reprinting the week after and within a few weeks you have developed a new product. So you can’t beat this. Very interesting was a case from the A350 testing. The doors seals are significant for the safety and this seals had to be improved. There were sheet metal parts required . So we printed 18 parts on a Concept X-Line within 4 weeks. Everyone who knows about sheet metal forming knows how much the tools would have cost and how long this would have taken. So we printed 18 parts in one go and delivered this parts to Toulouse four and a half weeks later. The parts were mounted the same evening and flew. So that’s flying Aluminum, again for a flight test installation. Just a one-off to validate the design and all this cost less than 8000 Euros. Now it’s getting a little more crazy. We have been to the University of Kiel and scanned this Victoria Sea Roses. We did this because we thought there might be some potential in what nature is doing in here and to show what might be the results. So we are reconstructing these structures now. We have made sheet metal constructions and integrated this designs as a reinforcement. This is working very nicely as we are on level with carbon fiber laminated parts but we have no costs for tooling and it is heat resistant. I have such a part over there. Now I like to show you a spoiler which is a breaking flap. [22:35] Here is a demonstrator reduced in size. The real size is between a 1,8 – 2,2 meters. The results shows that if we are able to print such a part, and the machine in South Africa is capable of doing this, in metal we would be 10% more light weight as honey comb and glass fiber as the hinges can be integrated in a better way. So there is potential. But as I said, the product has to be rethought completely.

Concluding this means we have build many parts also together with the machine manufacturers. I need larger printers, I need printers with multiple lasers and we have to rethink the ways how we produce. That means, that beginning of the year Tom Anders asked at the Concept-Lane, Peter but this is not the way it will look like tomorrow. I answered that I am not sure but I think it is achievable. This airplane would be in metal 30% more lightweight than in in carbon fiber nowadays. That is the potential we have. We are not doing all this alone. There are very few producers who are not cooperating with us. There you can see a few, Premium AEROTEC in Varel in Germany there is the designated ALM producer supplier with a print centre for cabin and fuselage applications. DIEHL Air Cabin will be part of it, LIEBHERR hydraulic unit, we have done studies together with RECARO, PFE who is manufacturing our tubes and currently I am printing a spare part for TITAL. Of course they are a supplier of us and I think this will be great. Summarizing this means we have 126:1 approach, we are competitive to casting, we can make metallic structures as lightweight as CFK but without any costs for tooling. I can only say whoever like to work in this field should start to rethink his product and build first prototypes to figure out how it works. The disadvantages are that I took my printed parts to Hachtel for a CT-scan. There is a software that creates within 30 – 45 minutes from the point cloud a 3D-model which can be printed again. The question is how we ensure and protect ourselves against copies in the future. Okay, it is not that easy and everyone who has printed already knows that there are little more details to do this. But there is a risk potential and we do have a process for this but it is something what need to be looked at. But what I see is that the speed of development is so high and will be that the companies who are doing it will be leading and the others will be gone. Because if you look at what we have seen at Premium AeroTech with slimming processes steps by half also the factories will be outdated. But you will need years to understand the new products. So you better run or you will be gone – sorry, I said it will be ‘hands-on’. One more thing and than I finished. What we have learned like in every company like us, with 65k employees, 11 thousand white collar engineers, you have people who dream about things like this bionic spoiler. We have created a internet platform to find this people and support them. Because this is where you get the step changes. That’s where we can run campaigns. We said to Europe and the USA, through the whole company, this is what we and asked what they would you like to print. So we ended up with teams who were not in the structural design delivering ideas which are being materialized right now. This leads to a crazy speed. Within this campaign we had 11 favorite parts redesigned and printed within 5 weeks. For this we a have a proto-net with the Laser Zentrum Nord and Concept Laser, I know my colleagues in Munich like to use EOS (Electro Optical Systems) just to make clear we are also working with them and not just Concept. But we have this pro-tonet what means people are contracted and it takes only an email if myself or someone else has an idea. This gives us the speed what we need nowadays. Okay, so this is the overview, thank you for your attention.

As mentioned in the introduction, there is no guarantee for correctness or completeness of this translation.


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