3D Printed Titanium Insert for Composite Panels Reduces Mass by Nearly 70%

14th October 2016

Atos, a global leader in digital services, and Materialise NV, leader in software and solutions for Additive Manufacturing (also known as 3D Printing), have presented a revolutionary titanium insert for spacecraft structures. This joint launch puts both companies at the top of providers of high-end products and advanced engineering solutions for 3D Printing. The product was revealed last Friday at the European Conference on Spacecraft Structures, Materials and Environmental Testing, ECSSMET 2016.

Marta García-Cosío, mechanical engineering director at Atos Spain, says: “We are proud with this innovation. By creating this complex product in metal additive manufacturing in such a short time, Atos and Materialise are amongst the top of providers of Metal 3D Printing solutions. The weight reduction will allow the increase of useful equipment to be used in satellites and result in considerable cost saving in each launch”.

These highly loaded inserts are used as mounting points to lift big and heavy structures. The comprehensive study performed by the Atos and Materialise team, has achieved a reduction of weight of the component up to a third of its initial weight, improving some of its properties and overall performance. Both companies used the advanced techniques of topology optimization and lattice structures design to reduce the insert’s mass from 1454 gr to 500 gr. That is an impressive 66% reduction.

This kind of insert is widely used in the aerospace sector to transfer high mechanical loads in structures like satellites. Classical inserts are commonly constructed in aluminum or titanium in a brick-shape, as they are manufactured by machining. They are 100% solid filled, increasing their mass over what is necessary. With additive manufacturing, the interior space of objects can be hollowed out or designed with lightweight structures, using material only where necessary. Consider that each kilogram put into orbit costs around $20,000 at the moment; any gram saved will make space a more attainable frontier.

The engineers faced the challenge to improve by far traditional concepts. The design was addressed to cover all space requirements, from conception phase to manufacturing. Atos’ expertise in aerospace engineering and structural simulation, helped to design this new component both in the outside and in its interior, enhancing its overall performance. The Atos and Materialise team was formed by experts in aerospace, Computer-Aided-Engineering, structural design, materials science and additive manufacturing.

The insert was manufactured by Metal 3D Printing in titanium, in a process also known as Selective Laser Melting (SLM). Metal 3D Printing has incredible potential for the aerospace sector, meeting the fast lead times and the absence of prior tooling. Two inserts were manufactured at the Materialise Metal 3D Printing Factory in Bremen, Germany. As Materialise’s center of competence for Metal 3D Printing, in both production and software development, the facility has demonstrated its scope for advanced manufacturing through projects such as this one.

The Atos and Materialise partnership in 3D Printing has unmatched capabilities in Europe for high-end engineering services. Their collaboration is meant to help professionals to embrace additive manufacturing at industry-level. They offer solutions in 3D Printing from conception to manufacturing, supported by advanced engineering. The engineering teams are formed by experts from both sides, which work together to give and end-to-end solution. Atos and Materialise form a powerful combination for the future of manufacturing.

The inserts are accompanied by a research study named “Additive Manufacturing Hot Bonded inserts in sandwich structures”, written by both parties and presented in ECSSMET 2016. Its results will help to improve the implementation of metal components made by additive manufacturing in aerospace and aeronautics.