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Thread: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

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    Registered User Cy V's Avatar
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    3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    This is an interesting article about new materials being used in 3D printing, including wood ... yes, wood.

    Using a standard powder-based 3D printer, they and their students have figured out how to print bricks, components, and furniture using recyclable materials. What does 3D-printed wood look like? Weirdly realistic: it has a faux grain, simply because of the layered printing process. The salt, meanwhile, looks like “solid milk,” to borrow Rael’s words. Shockingly, it’s all super strong, thanks to reinforcement techniques developed in-house—their printed cement is actually stronger than standard stuff. But most importantly? It’s 90% less expensive that current 3D printing technology.
    I wonder how far off we are from 3D printing wing ribs and other airplane parts?

    http://gizmodo.com/renewable-recycla...salt-486558507

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    Moderator Topaz's Avatar
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    Probably not very far. They've already got geometry and tolerances close enough. All that's left is being able to do the work (on a consumer-grade machine) with materials that have a good enough strength-to-weight ratio and making sure the production quality is sufficiently consistent that you can count on those structural qualities.

    For non-structural pieces, I'd say we're already there.
    "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." - Henry James Thoreau
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    Non structural? Sure, we're there. But wing ribs? not even close. At least with the comercial "melt the plastic rod" printers. The adhesion isn't very consistant, and the surface texture isn't very good. The plastic they use is also sensitive to hydrocarbon vapors. ...you don't want your plane to melt with spilled fuel.

    If you're talking the laser sintered plastic powder, or uv cured resin, it's another story.

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    Moderator Topaz's Avatar
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    Quote Originally Posted by nerobro View Post
    ...If you're talking the laser sintered plastic powder, or uv cured resin, it's another story.
    But are those really consumer-grade machines yet? Genuinely curious.
    "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." - Henry James Thoreau
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    FDS (fused deposition system, where ABS filament is fed and melted to the build up the part) machines are capable of making useful if not structural parts. The UV cured resin, unless it's come a long way, produces brittle parts more for "show and tell" and fit checks rather than use. There are techniques of laser sintering metal powder, but it's still a more expensive process than a simple sheet metal stamping. Most of the 3D printing processes make sense for small quantities of fairly intricate parts.

    I have a friend who uses a Stratasys FDS machine to make parts for gyrostabilized camera mounts, but lately he's found that CNC laser cutting of plastic sheet (and, of course, designing the product for that technique) is much faster and more cost effective.

    Dana

    If the aliens landed and asked if we had space travel - we would, of course, say yes. And if they asked how we do it, we would have to answer:
    We assemble the largest collection of liquid hydrogen, oxygen, and high explosive we can find... and then we put a man on top and TORCH the SOB!
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    Is ABS plastic strong enough to replace foam? Consumer grade 3D printers mostly use ABS plastic. However, it is very heavy. Maybe complex curves can be printed using ABS then reinforced with CF or GF on both sides.

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    Registered User Kristoffon's Avatar
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    Why would anyone want to 3D print a flat piece?
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    Formerly Unknown Target Inverted Vantage's Avatar
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    I work with a 3D printer during my day job. We use a Dimension 1200ES, which prints in ABS plastic. The Fortis line of printers cost about $50,000 and can print in polycarbonate and ultem, both very strong, structural capable components.

    Kristoffon, it's one of those things that, much like carbon fiber, would need to be designed differently to take advantage of the unique properties of the process. People still use carbon fiber to produce wing rib layups, despite the ability to create much more complicated shapes with it.

    Airbus uses 3d printing to make turbine blades for some of their engines, but there are currently no consumer-grade 3d printers that print in metal. However, I did just stumble on this;

    MAKE | An Open Source Laser Sintering 3D Printer

    I can see 3d printers currently used in aircraft to create interior body panels, molds, joysticks, knobs, etc - everything that's small and not strength critical for the final part.

    The cheapest "ready to go" 3d printer I know of is the Solidoodle, coming in at $499 for the base model. There are other ones that are lower that come as kits. There was one kit announced recently starting at $200.

    I personally hold the belief that this technology will help reduce the cost of aviation. Once it is advanced enough, it separates the cost of manufacturing from the volume in a way like never before. It's possible that this can bring the cost of low-number productions, like in aviation, down to more reasonable levels.
    Last edited by Inverted Vantage; May 2nd, 2013 at 10:03 PM.

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    Moderator autoreply's Avatar
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    I doubt we'll ever (well, in the foreseeable future) have 3d printing as a practical manufacturing technique for aircraft. For the metals we use, you'd need massive amounts of energy to just melt the metal. Definitely not consumer-grade lasers, unless you have weeks for a small part. Then heat-threatments are still required and I wonder whether it's possible at all to get close to the aerospace grade alloys. Only a single MINOR error and you get stress fracturing. Simply not applicable to aircraft, because unlike almost any other structure aircraft see very high average stress levels.

    Epoxies are thermoharders and carbon is incompatible with melting/heat threatments. Thermoplastic composites are still in their infancy.

    Then wood? Like composites, it depends on the fibers for it's strength. "Printed" won't be close to real wood.


    Turbines might cause a real revolution, with both 3D printing and CNC getting affordable we might see an affordable jet or turboprop engine in our price range.

    I expect a lot from advanced metal foam. With a 3D printer you can print otherwise impossible shapes. Far superior to honeycomb in sound dampening for example.


    3D printing has great potential for most markets, but when parts get very large, the quality has to be very high or it's very highly loaded, I don't think it makes much sense. Aerospace is one of the few markets where all 3 are problematic.


    For molds etc it makes sense, but I'm curious whether it will in the long term prove significantly cheaper as well-thought-out CNC-cut molds.
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    AR,
    The laser used in DLMS is less than 50 watts, and metals parts made with DLMS are stronger. It is 7AM and I got to leave for work. Will add more of my thoughts later.

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    Registered User bmcj's Avatar
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    I just realized that the pyramids must have been built by a large 3D (alien?) printer.
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aviator168 View Post
    AR,
    The laser used in DLMS is less than 50 watts, and metals parts made with DLMS are stronger. It is 7AM and I got to leave for work. Will add more of my thoughts later.
    More thoughts on application of 3D printing on homebuilts.

    For 3D printing to adopted for home builts. We have ask ourselves the question of what 3D printing can contribute to the process. For the airframe, 3D printing may be able to speed up the construction of some complex shapes, but nothing couldn't be done by hand. The most time consuming is probably laying up the CF/GF; but 3D printing can't help with those. Please feel free to add if you have any thoughts on this. Keep in mind that 3D printing can print the entire airframe in foam.

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    Formerly Unknown Target Inverted Vantage's Avatar
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    3D printing, from a manufacturing standpoint, could reduce the amount of hand labor involved in creating an airplane. It's not strictly limited to homebuilts; aircraft manufacturers could use it to lower costs, as now they only have to pay for electricity, not time for a person to build something by hand.

    For homebuilts, it allows someone with less skill to build a plane in faster time than someone who is more experienced - possibly, anyway. The size of the printer itself comes into play here.
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    Moderator Topaz's Avatar
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    Quote Originally Posted by Inverted Vantage View Post
    3D printing, from a manufacturing standpoint, could reduce the amount of hand labor involved in creating an airplane. It's not strictly limited to homebuilts; aircraft manufacturers could use it to lower costs, as now they only have to pay for electricity, not time for a person to build something by hand.

    For homebuilts, it allows someone with less skill to build a plane in faster time than someone who is more experienced - possibly, anyway. The size of the printer itself comes into play here.
    I think it's going to be a matter of some creativity, rather than any absolute technology. There are strengths and weaknesses in any manufacturing process. Will a consumer, some day, be able to 3D print all the components of an airframe? Probably. "Some day" is a really long time. But while I don't subscribe to the "it'll never happen" theory in this case, I think it's going to be a very long time before we're "printing" our primary structural components on home equipment, even in pieces for later assembly. Ribs are secondary structure. The requirements aren't as tough to meet.

    We already have easily-obtained laser and water cutters, from job-shops that will happily produce your parts in one-off quantities for just about any legal purpose. I don't see the homebuilding community taking advantage of that at all, so I have a hard time seeing us making the leap to 3D printing any time soon.

    Don't get me wrong. I think it's a breathtaking technology and we haven't even begun​ to tap the potential there.
    "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." - Henry James Thoreau
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    Re: 3D Printed Wing Ribs - Are We Almost There?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aviator168 View Post
    AR,
    The laser used in DLMS is less than 50 watts, and metals parts made with DLMS are stronger. It is 7AM and I got to leave for work. Will add more of my thoughts later.
    To the best of my knowledge, lasers above 100 mW here are illegal. With 50 Watt, you can melt/produce aluminium at about a pound/hour. That seems like it's mostly appropriate for small parts.

    How do you get it to equal quality metals as 2024 or similar? I don't know that much about the process, but aren't there a lot of bubbles in the metal? For heat-treatment you'd still need a massive oven wouldn't you?

    Inserts, small parts and so on, certainly. Maybe even more so in composites, where small, clever parts can reduce production time a lot (all the hardpoints and their positioning is a major part of the work in molded construction). But then, doing this in CNC would work just as well wouldn't it?

    Many companies, working with composites still seem 30 years behind (including most big names). A 2X2 inch alu block that's either CNC-cut or 3D printed can be perfectly suitable as the hard-point (hinge) for 3 control push-pull tubes. Compared to how it's done today, that's an easy 2-3 hours less work. Only of those hardpoints we easily have a few dozen. I don't see the manufacturing of airframes change that much, but we could certainly improve a lot in the details.

    But no, I don't see 3D-printing ribs becoming worth it in the future.
    Aude somniare

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