in Aerospace / Space

MTC establishes 3D printing centre with ESA

Posted 31 May 2017 · Add Comment

The European Space Agency (ESA) is to embrace the radical new technology of additive manufacturing (3D printing) having set-up a new UK-based 'one-stop shop' in partnership with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC).



The MTC, based in Coventry and home to the UK National Centre for Additive Manufacturing, will manage the new ESA Additive Manufacturing Benchmarking Centre (AMBC), which will provide a simple and easy way for ESA projects and hi-tech companies to investigate the potential of additive manufacturing for their work.

The move will see the ESA call on the expertise of the MTC, which is at the forefront of additive manufacturing (AM) and offers access to the latest state-of-the-art AM capabilities, allowing prototype parts to be produced and then assessed in terms of their suitability for specific applications.

“The ESA’s Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality has called for the creation of a detailed roadmap for the harnessing of 3D printing to the space sector,” says Torben Henriksen, Head of ESA’s Mechanical Department.

“We’ve been guided to set up this Centre, with customers and industrial partners questioning us about the best way to try out 3D printing for the first time and test out the maturity of the results.”

Tommaso Ghidini, head of the ESA’s Materials and Processes Section, added: “Having identified this requirement, we have outsourced its operation to the MTC.

“We don’t want to compete with industry; instead the idea is that ESA projects and interested companies can investigate this new engineering world to the point where they will take a decision to proceed further.”

Dr Dave Brackett, technology manager for additive manufacturing at the MTC, believes ESA’s exploration of the use of AM will be incredibly beneficial for the technology.

“This is a brilliant opportunity to further the advancement of the technology in one of the most testing and dynamic application areas.

“As the UK National Centre for Additive Manufacturing, we are in a unique position to work with ESA as their Additive Manufacturing Benchmarking Centre and provide the space sector with access to state-of-the-art capability and understanding to support industrial exploitation.”

Europe’s Vega small launcher will be the first project to make early use of the Centre.

“By evolving Vega over time, we aim to hone its competitiveness, increase its flexibility and reduce recurring costs,” said Giorgio Tumino, who is overseeing its development programme for ESA.

“We’re co-operating with the AMBC to investigate the use of 3D printing for rocket engine thrust chambers for Vega’s upper stage, potentially allowing for a significant simplification in production and reduced costs.

“For such high pressure/high efficiency liquid rocket thrust chambers, a good surface finish is essential, with the absence of critical defects and the equivalent strength properties of its parent material – produced to a size at the limit of the current capabilities for powder-based additive manufacturing machines, using non-standard alloys.

“The AMBC will demonstrate the capability to use 3D printing on copper-based thrust chambers and set the proper process parameters, producing a one-third scale thrust chamber that can then be used for firing tests. If all goes well, then the next step would be to scale it up to full scale, and start the formal qualification of the process for flight use.”

The UK National Centre for Additive Manufacturing facility maintains a comprehensive  portfolio of materials, machines and post-processing options, which will enable the AMBC to print a variety of test hardware, using polymers, metal and ceramic 3D printers.

Follow-up testing, including detailed failure investigations, will supply customers with a fuller understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their chosen 3D printing method, along with advice on future improvements.

All test results generated by the AMBC will be published in a Europe-wide newsletter, to spread its know-how as widely as possible, and consolidate European leadership in 3D printing.

The AMBC on the MTC campus is about an hour away from the ESA–RAL Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory at ESA’s Harwell facility, which is focused on enhanced scientific understanding of 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing techniques.

 

* required field

Post a comment

Other Stories
Advertisement
Latest News

Azores Airlines takes delivery of its first A321neo

Azores Airlines has taken delivery of its first Airbus A321neo aircraft, to become first Portuguese A320neo Family operator.

Serco signs Copernicus data access contract with ESA

Serco's business in Italy has been awarded a contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to deliver a ground-breaking project to facilitate open and unlimited access to earth observation data and geospatial information collected as

All change at the top of Airbus

The Airbus Board of Directors has today announced executive changes as Tom Enders (59) has advised them he won't seek another term as CEO beyond his current mandate (which runs until the 2019 Annual Shareholders Meeting April 2019)and

ADS highlights industry need for transition agreement in early 2018

ADS said today that although confirmation that talks can start on transition and our future relationship with the EU is welcome progress, industry now needs to see urgent agreement reached on transition arrangements.

Astronaut Tim Peake opens UTC Portsmouth

Two years after blasting off to join the International Space Station, British astronaut Tim Peake formally opened the Roya Navy backed college which will produce the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.

CAA launching new airspace change process

In 2015 the CAA started reviewing its airspace change process and after nearly three years of detailed work and two public consultations, it is now launching its new process which will take effect from 2nd January 2018.

SMI NCWSK2011171217
See us at
FIL18 BT111017220718SMI FAVSABT2411120418SMI NCWBT3110020218S&P BT281117080318Aviation Africa BT18418