A 3D printing technology developer has introduced a new technology it is proposing as an alternative for large forged titanium parts, particularly for aerospace applications, with potential savings in production time and materials. The Rapid Additive Forging (RAF) technology introduced in June by Prodways Group is said to be an effective alternative to forging parts over 70 cm long. A patent application has been filed.
A new version of the RAF, currently in development, would print parts up to 2 meters long.
Prodways Group, a French company that develops 3D printers for producing plastic and ceramic parts as one of its activities, developed the titanium 3D printing process to use a robot-powered head dispensing molten metal within a sealed, inert gas chamber.
RAF technology was developed in collaboration with Commercy Robotique, a developer of robotized welding systems. Both Commercy Robotique and Prodways Group are subsidiaries of Groupe Gorgé, a holding company of high-tech manufacturing businesses.
As in laser sintering or electron-beam deposition, the material is deposited layer-by-layer according to CAD-defined patterns. Large, near-net-shape titanium blanks can be printed "within a few hours", according to the developer.
The printed blanks are finish-machined to final dimension, which can conserve valuable quantities of metal compared to other production routes.
Prodways emphasized that its metal deposition technology optimizes metallurgical quality and process repeatability. Initial metallurgical tests on different parts exhibited “an absence of porosity and greater mechanical resistance” compared to parts produced by other 3DP processes (e.g., laser sintering, electron-beam sintering.)
Prodways Group claimed "several players in the aeronautical industry" have expressed interest in adopting the RAF technology, and believe it could be applied to nearly 50% of the titanium parts used to manufacture an aircraft, with savings of up to 50% on the cost of parts.
In a parallel development, Prodways entered into a technology partnership agreement with Safran Group, the parent company to several jet engine and aerospace parts manufacturers. That agreement involves new applications of Prodways’ "indirect casting" technologies to produce metal parts, including 3D printing wax molds for investment casting.
In addition 3DP technology, Prodways provides industrial AM services. Its primary offering is called MovingLight, involving a digital light projector mounted above a vat of photosensitive polymer resin, which is used to solidify sections of resin into individual parts. MovingLight is one of the areas that Prodways and Safran will seek to develop for new applications.