Airbus Helicopters, Donauwörth, Germany, has officially begun production of latch shafts for the doors of the A350 passenger aircraft using metal Additive Manufacturing. According to the company, the AM components are cheaper to produce and weigh less than their counterparts made by conventional methods, enabling Airbus to continue offering more economical and environmentally friendly aircraft.
Airbus Helicopters manufactures the doors for all Airbus aircraft programmes. The latch shafts are made in titanium on an EOS M 400-4 Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (LB-PBF) system in batches of twenty-eight per build. The resulting parts are reported to be 45% lighter and 25% cheaper to produce than traditional latch shafts; as each A350 has sixteen latch shafts, the result is a saving of just over 4 kg per aircraft.
Airbus Helicopters stated that it plans to deliver 2,200 components a year once production is fully operational. Qualification is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2018, with serial production starting in early 2019; the first additively manufactured A350 components are expected to begin service in active aircraft in 2020.
Airbus Helicopters added that it has begun preparations to produce an even larger group of A350 door components using Additive Manufacturing, and also expects to use the technology in the production of future helicopter components. Luis Martin Diaz, Head of Industrial Service Centers, Airbus Helicopters Donauwörth, stated, “Our goal is to get developers making more use of 3D printing.”
“This means that 3D printing should be taken into consideration right from the initial planning stages for new components, which may be able to be manufactured particularly easily and cost-effectively using this method. Weight savings are especially important when it comes to helicopters. Airbus will start preparations for the industrialisation of 3D printed helicopter components this year.”
Nikolai Zaepernick, Senior Vice President Central Europe, EOS, commented, “We are proud that Airbus Helicopters relies on EOS Technology for the manufacturing of flight-critical components such as latch shafts. Our systems provide a very high and reproducible quality. With this machine performance and with our know-how, we can significantly support Airbus Helicopters in the certification process for the component.”