Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

High-power melting for fast processing

The best production methods for aerospace parts with complex geometries have typically been slow and expensive. Advanced technology developed with EU support enables cost-effective mass production of such parts, slashing the selling price in half.
High-power melting for fast processing
Additive manufacturing (AM), in which a part is built up layer by layer from a computer-aided design file, has several advantages compared to standard shaping techniques. It produces a part close to final form and minimises post-processing energy consumption, time and material waste. It is particularly valuable in producing complex geometries with high precision.

Electron beam melting (EBM) AM quickly produces parts in a powder bed in a vacuum box by melting sequential layers of powder with an electron beam. Its slow speed combined with the capital cost of equipment make it an expensive route for mass production of titanium alloy-based aerospace components. The EU-funded project FASTEBM accelerated the process with a novel high-power electron beam gun and associated process control technology.

Key to project success was modelling and simulation. The team advanced a model of the EMB process that is successful in 2D simulations to accommodate 3D. They employed finite element modelling of the electron gun to increase beam power, the key to increasing processing speed.

The prototype was tested in industrial process trials by one project partner, who now has a registered trademark for the EBM technology. Simulations helped scientists identify a process window in which higher processing speeds are possible while ensuring acceptably low porosity and swelling for a successful build.

Researchers also developed a process cost model. Its implementation demonstrated a potential decrease in selling price of titanium aerospace components by approximately 54 % compared to conventional processing methods thanks to savings in production costs. This would obviously have tremendous impact on the competitive position of EU aerospace components manufacturers, many of whom are small and medium-sized enterprises.

FASTEBM has delivered a prototype, very fast, high-precision EBM apparatus with control software and process models for large-scale production of titanium airframe parts. With further development, the technology will qualify for a number of parts and other AM processes, making an important contribution to the EU economy.

Related information

Keywords

Aerospace, mass production, additive manufacturing, electron beam melting
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