ALM Benchmaring Center

Fondazione E. Amaldi
Competence and benchmarking Center

on Advanced Additive Manufacturing for Space Industry


Introduction
The distinctive feature of metal 3D printing, a branch of Additive Manufacturing and in particular of PBF, which involves both the SLM and SEBM technology, is to produce an object layer upon layer through selective melting and consequent solidification of the powder bed, showed many advantages in comparison to conventional manufacturing processes.
Among the others, flexibility related to the manufacturing of complex geometry parts and the refined microstructure are mentioned.
The last one comes from the unbalanced crystalline structure because of the rapid solidification typical of 3D printing.

Industrial sectors which has first understood and exploited these advantages are: Biomedical, through the production of prosthesis mainly in titanium and cobalt-chrome and Automotive starting from the motor-racing to gradually get to luxury cars. However, metal 3D printing technology or more properly Additive Manufacturing technology is growing fast also in other sectors considered more traditional like Packaging and Mechanics in general.

In Aeronautics it is often consider a model for the industrial adoption of 3D printing, the AVIO General Electric firm of Cameri (Novara). At least 60 printers and two atomising systems are used to mass produce engine turbine shovels in titanium aluminide. Other big companies of this sector, such as Boeing and Airbus have developed and realised wide-scale component by additive manufacturing considering that are lighter than components created by subtractive techniques.

Main advantages in the aerospace sector of AM processes are:

  • To increase the performances – to reduce the mass (light construction, efficiency of resources)
  • To increase efficiency (combustion processes, surfaces/ free formed canals)
  • Integration of closed and complex cooling canals (e.g. thrusters, thermal applications).
  • To simplify production and increase certainty of production – Integration of different functions in a single component with no efforts in assembling.
  • Rapid prototyping – No tools needed – No long term stock material needed
  • Complex shaped parts – To allow alternative planning/manufacture of parts which require a processing higher than 80% of initial material.

 

Additive Manufacturing in the Space Industry

In 2015 ESA conducted a survey to discover the needs of Additive Manufacturing for the industries. Participants were asked to discuss various topics regarding processes and materials for AM. The chart number 1 shows the results of the AM system currently used.

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Chart 1: results of the survey about AM technology used by European Industry: Selective Laser Melting (SLM), Electron Beam Melting (EBM) Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) SLA Stereolithography
(149 participants multiple answers allowed, in total 254 answers).
Most of the subjects involved uses Selective Laser Melting (SLM), followed by Electron Beam Melting (EBM) and Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) for thermoplastics and polymers. 
Another important aspect of this technology is the material used. ESA survey also evaluated which material the “AM Space Industry” considers as mandatory for space projects that use components made by AM.

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Chart number 2, results of the survey about materials used for AM by the European Space Industry AM.89 surveyees, multiple answers allowed, total: 187 answers.
The chart show that in 2015 the two main materials were titanium and aluminium alloys. However, because of the fast growing of this enabling technology, recently a strong interest in Nickel and Copper alloys has emerged. 
Also the polymers are currently very used and the components which use technical features of new material are growing and they will possibly substitute the metal ones. 
The workshop planned by ESA in 2016 to present the survey results also showed a great interest of “Large Space Integrators” for this technology.

 

Italian Space Industries scenario 

Italian space industry has the maximum ratio between research investment and production value. 
Based on an Italian Space Agency (ASI) report this is 11% compared to 5.1% for high-tech and 0.9% for manufacturing. Nevertheless, the rate of introduction of this new technology in this sector is pretty slow at the moment.

Ensuring success of launches and satellite missions have been the primary goal for implementing redundancies for space activities, from stratospheric balloons to interplanetary missions. However, this model is changing quickly also because of the commercial use of space technology by private stakeholders.

The advent of Space X with its partially re-usable launchers is a striking example.
Recently, NASA has published the results of its studies for making combustion chambers by 3D printing to provide for a lighter and cheaper device. The European industry and in particular the Italian should consider a similar technology track. Basing on a research carried out by universities and ASI, in Italy there are 56 productive AM units of which almost half of them are pure space industries involved with the construction of satellites, vehicles, and space robots, launchers, ground control stations, services for telecommunication and weather and environmental monitoring, humanitarian emergences, security and defence.

Besides, there are a great number of SME having different roles, involved directly or as contractors in this innovative space technology field. It difficult to invest in such new production technologies without knowing the resulting benefit. This is particularly true when it comes to AM which is a “capital intensive” technology.

In Italy there are different providers available to manufacture components through AM printing. 
Understanding the convenience of AM, however, requires a deep knowledge of this technology also adapting to specific fields of application.

For this purpose, we aim to create an open competence and benchmarking center where one can find both machines and competences ranging from science of materials to redesign of components exploiting all possible advantages of 3D printing for space applications.

 

Organization and scopes of the Amaldi Foundation competence and benchmarking centre

Additive Manifacturing and Benchmarking Centers (AMBC) for space applications will be an important reference in Europe 3D printing sector. 


The Italian AMBC will be the result of a collaboration between the Amaldi Foundation and companies and universities at national level, through a network of KetLabs. The Italian AMBC will offer an excellent know-how in each aspect of component design, production and testing and qualification according to the current European standards.


Thanks to the competences and infrastructures which are available through the AMBC participants will be possible to address effectively all industrial needs in the AM for the space sector.


The AMBC will also carry out studies aimed to the :

  • keep technology to state of the art, 
  • design and the reverse engineering, 
  • optimization of production processes of raw material (especially metal powders), o 
  • the chemical and structural characterization of products, creating a link to the ongoing process

The goal of the Amaldi Foundation AMBC is to let users to learn the technology by the direct use of the equipment and machines, o production processes and usable materials. The technicians/researchers of visiting companies will have the opportunity to talk with the associated researchers of the center about possible issues, the production plan or R&D.

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The AMBC users will have the opportunity to:

  • Get a more depth-knowledge through a new industrial production methodology,
  • engineer existent components to achieve better performances and lower costs. For example, some of these components made by conventional subtractive techniques may be re-designed in a reticular form (latex) gaining a lighter and possibly reinforced object where it is subjected to loads;
  • evaluate and develop specific materials for specific needs and in order to be used for AM. For example, in the quoted publication, NASA has re-designed the combustion chamber thanks to the flexibility offered by AM. NASA has also studied a copper alloy used in AM to improve the heat exchange and the possibility of cooling of the component;
  • to create prototypes to be tested;
  • to quickly produce a limited number of pieces/components, without directly to invest in a AM production line.  

 

The AMBC for space is based on a network of companies, public research bodies and universities to supply the interested participants top lebvel technological and scientific support.

 

 

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In the following table, the list of current partners. Others may join in the future:

CENTRES-COMPANIES

HANDLERS

Politecnico di Torino – Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Eng. Professor Giancarlo Genta

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Automotive Engineering class Coordinator

Member of the International Academy of Astronautics

Politecnico di Milano – Department of Mechanical Engineering

Eng. Professor Mario Guagliano,

Department of Mechanical Engineering

Università di Roma 2 Tor Vergata – Department of Industrial Engineering

Professor Loredana Santo

Technologies and processes

Department of Industrial Engineering

Università di Salerno

Engineering Department

Professor Fabrizia Caiazzo

Department of Mechanical Engineering

Università di Perugia – Engineering Department

Prof. Roberto Sorrentino

Engineering Department

Università di Siena – Department of Mathematical Sciences and Information Engineering

Professor Stefano Maci

Department of Mathematical Sciences and Information Engineering

Università di Roma “La Sapienza”

SBAI Department – Basic Science Applied to Engineering

Eng. Professor Luigi Palumbo

Head of the Department

Università Telematica Uninettuno – E-Learning platform for distance learning

Eng. Clemente Cesarano

Department of Mechanical Engineering

CNR – Tor Vergata Research Area

Dr. Alessandro Pecora

AR Activities Director

CNR - IMEM

Dr. Salvatore Iannotta 

Director

CNR – Engineering Department

Eng. Emilio Edmondo Campana

Director

INFN LNF- Accelerators Division

Dr. Andrea Ghigo

Head of Division

BEAMIT – AM Provider Company

Mr. Mauro Antolotti

CEO

Material Research Centre (RIINA Consulting)

Eng. Dante Pocci

Business Manager

Italian Centre for Aerospace Research

Eng. Marcello Amato ​Resp. Strategic Planning and Business Development

SISMA Spa – 3D printers construction Company Impresa Costruzione stampanti AM

Eng. Vittorio Gaudino

CEO

Mimete srl (Spinoff Fomas Spa) Metal Powders Producer

Eng. Valentina Vicario

CEO

Prima Industrie SPA

Eng. Paolo Calefati   

CTO

3D-NT srl

Dr. Fabio Ferrario

CTO

Associazione Italiana di Metallurgia

Professor Roberto Montanari

President

 

A board of international expert will coordinate the network activities.
This technical/scientific council will support the companies R&D activities and suggest new technological paths to be followed in AM, like Powders, Processes, Production Tools.

This technical/scientific council will support the companies R&D activities and possibly it will also suggest new technological paths to follow in Additive Manufacturing matter: Powders, Processes,

 

References:

1) Development and Hot-fire Testing of Additively Manufactured Copper Combustion Chambers for Liquid Rocket Engine Applications, 53rd AIAA/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, Atlanta, GA

SHORT AND MEDIUM TERM PROGRAMME The short and medium term programs are divided into two different branches: “R&D” and the more proper “Benchmarking Activity”, based on feasibility studies, prototyping and tests.

 

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  • Planning and development of an innovative AM machine (in collaboration with SISMA Spa)
  • (Patent application for the invention of a “Electron Beam 3D printing Machine” number: 102016000082446 submitted the 4th August 2016 and following international application number:
  • PCT/IB2017/054796 submitted the 4th August 2017)
  • Feasibility study related to the development of high-performance copper-based powders for additive manufacturing for the aerospace sector.
  • Feasibility study related to the development of high-performance nickel-based powders for additive manufacturing for the aerospace sector.
  • New powders test by different sources
  • Development of high-performance copper-based powders for additive manufacturing for the aerospace sector.

 

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Testing and Benchmarking activities

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  • Development of prototype components, on request of companies, with characterization of samples and economic analysis of production costs.
  • Feasibility study on components currently made through other techniques
  • Topological optimization of components to be made through AM
  • Ongoing prototyping activities of copper components for microwaves in collaboration with the Engineering Department of the Università degli Studi di Perugia
  • Prototyping activity of meta surfaces antennas with the Department of Mathematical Sciences and Information Engineering and with the company Wave Up srl.
  • E-learning training courses for companies and professionals
  • Periodic workshops on current issues of 3D printing

 

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Via del Politecnico snc
c/o Agenzia Spaziale Italiana
Tel. +39 06. 8567612
eMail: info@fondazioneamaldi.it