Groupe Gorge’s successful sister concern Prodways Group has recently announced their very own Rapid Additive Forging (RAF) technology. This metal 3D printing method will be employed in printing out large titanium parts for aircrafts. In addition to sophisticated technologies such as selective laser sintering and vat photopolymerization, Prodways now has this powerful technology that has added metal deposition to its portfolio. Previously, the French 3D printer manufacturing company has gone public at the European Stock Exchange last month. The recent announcement is not only going to increase the value of the company, it will also have a major impact in the aeronautical and aerospace sectors. Another commendable action taken by the company is the choice of announcement date itself. The timing is just ahead of France’s prestigious Le Bourget Paris Air Show opening its gates where 3D printing is going to have a major presence. The company developed this technology with yet another organ of Groupe Gorge- Commercy Robotique. The latter specializes in robotized welding and has been in the industry for over 40 years.
Already a successful name in 3D printing, the company happens to offer multi material solutions with their MOVINGLIGHT technology. This patented and proprietary technology employs a DLP process which makes use of mobile UV rays- the results are detailed and high speed print results. For the new RAF technology, Prodways has already undertaken all measures to get it patented.
How RAF Works
According to the company’s announcement, RAF happens to be a kind of directed energy deposition relying on a robot having a metal deposition head, the metal is printed within a chamber full of inert gas. The metal will be deposited layer upon layer until a lattice or net shaped object is constructed- all of this in a couple of hours. The metal blanks that have been created in the process then undergo machining for its finishing touches of final specifications.
Thanks to the company’s continuous R&D advances and their metal 3D printing expertise, a technology like Rapid Additive Forging technology could be developed. The large metal parts used for critical uses such as titanium components for airplanes happen to make use of expensive and slow manufacturing processes where forging and machining are combined. Due to this, the manufacturing lead time for some of these titanium components can be much longer than a year. Moreover, a significant amount of metal is wasted during the lengthy process. Thanks to RAF, there will be less wastage of material and much speedier output.
The 3D printer at Prodways Group specialized for this technology has a robot that is ready to deposit molten metal into an atmosphere of inert gas, by shooting it out of a head. Focusing on metallurgical quality and repeatability, the metal deposition technology takes only about a few hours for the part to be printed out. Gradually, some titanium ‘blanks’ are built having similar geometry to the end product, which are then finish-machined to perfection.
Testing and Usage
This new and innovative RAF method has been tested out on various metals, but will be used particularly for titanium based parts. In new generation aircrafts, the demand for biocompatible metals suchs as titanium is being increasingly used due to its corrosion resisting and biocompatible mechanical properties. Large companies such as Boeing and Airbus are already using 3D printed aircraft components made of titanium in their new aircrafts. Other companies that are working with their own technologies include Sciaky and Norsk Titanium. They are also working closely with aerospace manufacturers in order to develop metal parts of large scale using directed energy deposition of their own form.
Many companies currently in the aeronautical industry believe that the new RAF technology by Prodways can be used in nearly 50% of the titanium parts currently being used for manufacturing an aircraft. This would result in saving more than 50% of the production cost. Some of the first metallurgical tests that are conducted on various parts printed in the process displayed an absence of porosity and better mechanical resistance compared to typical metal 3D printing processes such as electron beam sintering or laser. The company’s third generation prototype could print out parts over 70cm in size. It is currently working for the development of their next version which would print even bigger parts up to 2 meters. Several top level industries have expressed an interest in their work and hence, they will be providing regular updates on the development of the RAF technology.
Plans for The Future
As mentioned before, Prodways plans to release information about their RAF technology from time to time. Addition of this 3D printing technology to their company portfolio has many significant outcomes. When it was founded, Prodways came up with their own brand MOVINGLIGHT, which is a digital light processing (DLP) technology. The technology includes a DLP projector which is mounted upon a vat of photosensitive polymer resin. This resin is used for hardening of large material swaths into physical objects. Prodways demonstrated MOVINGLIGHT as continuous DLP technology which made it suitable for 3D printed plastic parts in a much better speed than the liquid interface production platforms of Carbon.
Prodways has formed some important partnerships that would take the company further in their pursuit of developing metal 3D printing technologies. Among them is Norge Systems, which deals with selective laser sintering (SLS), 3DCeram with ceramic DLP 3D printing expertise and Farsoon Technologies. In order to create dense metal parts, Prodways was able to show the ability to 3D print metal particle loaded photosensitive resins through its ceramic 3D printing platform. Among its partners, Farsoon is a manufacturer of SLM machines, and it is believed that Prodways might begin selling their own SLM systems. Prodways could possess one of the most diverse portfolios on metal 3D printing in the current market, adding to its expertise in SLS, DLP and polymer technologies. Already, the company has one of the more diverse additive manufacturing portfolios in the market.
Heading into a very competitive and aggressive sector of aerospace, this is, in a word, a crucial period for Prodways as a company.
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