Does anyone else think this is just silly - According to the 'news' Beijing

(Richard Horne) #1

Does anyone else think this is just silly - According to the ‘news’ Beijing University claim to have 3D printed a massive 5M aircraft wing section in metal - Finding that very hard to believe. It all looks so much like a CNC process and It’s covered in machining marks - I could have has a secondary CNC pass after 3D printing, but just the size makes this almost impossible - even small metal 3D printed parts warp like mad, so how is this possible - conclusion it’s probably not - and the ‘news’ reporting has it all wrong.

Plenty of people are picking it up and not asking basic questions. I would be very happy to be wrong, but…

Maybe it’s just a massive CNC machine - that would be cool, but it’s not 3D printing… What does anyone else think?

(Justin Garski) #2

10 years ago I saw a U.S. based aero company doing buildup of material using what could be considered 3d printing. And then finish machining. On some part geometries the material savings vs cutting out of a single chunk is crazy.

(Paul Gross) #3

Did they showcase the machine that made this part, or just the part itself? I can’t find any photos or videos of the printing machine they used.

If it is made with a 3D printing machine, then it would be a huge laser-sintering machine using powdered titanium, rather an extruder type using FFF technology. It is possible that they did build such a machine, but it would have been interesting to see photos of that too, not just the printed part.

There are already vendors providing laser sintered titanium parts, so I guess the big deal is the huge scale of their new sintering machine. Again - why no photos of the machine?

That surface finish could be a post-process polish - but it does look a bit slapdash. A very basic polish is appropriate for internal structural parts.

(JOHN YN) #4

where’s the machine ? ( where’s the beef ">>>

(Richard Horne) #5

Long conversation going on over on Twitter - so far it could be EBAM from - Sciaky, Inc. - but it’s still a massive 5M long part.

@Joris_Peels1 has the most info on the possible origins of this ‘print’ - Optomec lens system -

But that seems to be a maximum of 1.5M and still enclosed in a sealed chamber, so Unless China has some super secret Massive 3D printer it’s not showing off, we still don’t know what made this 5M long part.

Apparently the China media say it’s SLS titanium but that’s the most unlikely out of all.

(Joris Peels) #6

Direct Metal Deposition or LENS or however you want to call it has been going on for years. They’ve got patents on laser cladding from the late 70’s. This is a UTC patent from the 80’s Lockheed’s 3D printed warhead patent is from 2004:

They’ve been doing 5m+ parts for years for use in the Dreamliner, satellites, defense bits and bobs etc.

(Joris Peels) #7

Here’s a NASA EBF3 paper from 2003

(Chris Wilson) #8

Just because it’s 3D Printed, doesn’t mean they don’t machine it to ensure it’s up to tolerance. They’d still have to clean up most of the areas.

(Jeff DeMaagd) #9

It looks like they machined all surfaces. Given the expense of the various additive 3D printing technologies, I wonder if this is truly economical over cutting it out of a solid blank.

(Richard Horne) #10

@Jeff_DeMaagd That was exactly my first thought. Rather than expensive cast and CNC finish or 3Dprint and CNC finish why not just CNC from a solid blank and recycle the waste.

(Whosawhatsis) #11

The term “3D printing” is so abused that they might just be saying that it was cut from an extruded block of metal. To some people, anything that extrudes is a 3D printer, and the media will jump on that association because 3D printing is a buzzword.

(Joris Peels) #12

Guys, would hope to be able to lambast this but this is totally true. They’ve been making DMD and LENS parts like this for years with similar sizes.

(Richard Horne) #13

@Joris_Peels Then I’m not sure why we have a news article at all on it? If it’s so common what do you think Beijing University has achieved? are the patents now expired? or is this just a case of China catching up. I’m still trying to work out exactly what was being shown and who in China is making - and with what machines.

(Jeff DeMaagd) #14

The very same “news” web site had a story two years ago on what looks like the exact same part for the same airplane:

3D printer news sites annoy me a lot.

(Richard Horne) #15

Well spotted @Jeff_DeMaagd - I guess even with recycled ‘news’, people are not paying all that much attention. Maybe just desensitised to what 3D printing can do - or maybe still expecting the technology to do all things already, not to question what is actually new or better than existing manufacturing processes.

(Nathaniel Stenzel) #16

I won’t comment on if the news story is true or not. I don’t have enough information on That story.
I can tell you that I saw a video a year or two ago of a laser or arc depositing metal on a work piece using a fully rotating work base. After the metal was deposited, the metal was then milled down to more appropriate shape and tolerances. The company involved was from Europe or Germany or somewhere around there. The machine was about 4x4x6 feet big with alot of it being computing and only about 3x3x3 being the work chamber.

(Jeff DeMaagd) #17

Nathaniel, I think you’re talking about the DMG Mori Lasertec 65.

I think the Chinese jet part is probably hybrid additive and subtractive and not just subtractive, it’s just that the story doesn’t do anything to show the part’s additive origins. And that the information is sparse on whether it’s really a competitive process for that part.

(Joris Peels) #18

@Richard_Horne The US vendors have been almost exclusively selling their services to the defense industry and haven’t been real vocal about what they’ve been doing. There are 3D printed parts on many aircraft and a number of military aircraft such as the C-5 have metal 3D printed parts in them. The JSF may have as many as 800 or more 3D printed parts on it including SLS parts, high temp SLS parts, DMLS parts and DMD parts. The Chinese parts in the article are larger than the parts shown publicly by the US vendors, but are well within the capabilities of US vendors.
What Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed and Comac are trying to do now is to use large structural metal parts in aircraft. In order to obtain lighter aircraft, do less assembly, have less assembly risk, have less parts, keep less parts and have optimized geometries they’re increasingly turning to 3D printed parts. The Dreamliner essentially maxed out what one can do currently with composites. The only way forward in aviation is: to get rid of the rivets, get rid of wiring, develop new power technologies, develop better engines, develop newer materials or optimize parts by 3D printing plastic and structural parts. Especially through reducing weight and assembly risk but also by letting more testing and iteration occur 3D printing will, to a large extent, determine the future of aviation. The technology has significant strategic implications for the future of air power. If Comac gets 3D printing right it may succeed in its goal to become one of the largest commercial aircraft vendors in the world using this technology shift to leapfrog Airbus and Boeing. If China manages to commercialize large scale metal 3D printing technologies better than the US can then they can perhaps out innovate the US in next generation fighters or make many good enough planes for the cost of one US plane. Much of the commercial SLS 3D printing capacity has traditionally been used to manufacture drones. Low weight, low parts volume, quick from idea to part all were crucial factors to why many drone manufacturers adopted 3D printing for prototyping and end use parts. If one country succeeds in quickly manufacturing an entire drone using 3D printing then one could put up swarms of thousands of drones over an area and protect this area from any ground assault. If I can 3D print drones faster than you can shoot them down and can do so close to the battlefield then I essentially have an almost infinitely replaceable area deniability weapon. If I then crowdsource the design of this weapon and day after day improve my drone continually then it will become almost impossible for anyone to credibly project power on the other one or on an area that is being guarded by a drone swarm. What good is a carrier battle group if it is being attacked by 5000 drones simultaneously? Systems such as the goalkeeper and phalanx have very high rates of fire but their ranges are 2k to 4k and a single system has up to 2000 rounds. A drone swarm could therefore close so quickly and present such a system with too many targets to bring down. An over the horizon landing amphibious assault is also a non starter if they simply have a vehicle flying that could crash into any and all of your vehicles. Right now a drone is a simple camera that takes many people to operate it and may have a missile capability. But, if drones were largely autonomous via AI and just needed a human to approve a targeting choice then it would be possible to have a 1000 drones up simultaneously each a 100 meters apart along a certain border. If they run out of fuel a new one replaces them, if they are shot down a new one replaces one and another is printed. I think that the Joint Strike Fighter program is essentially a trojan horse for the further commercialization of 3D printing for aerospace applications and the automated manufacturing of entire drones specifically. Our technology has the potential to bring humanity much in terms of medical and manufacturing advances. A lot of the money and research being done currently however is aimed at using 3D printing for warfare. The future of war will be decided by whichever military successfully deploys automated manufacturing so that they can improve their materiel the quickest and make closer to the battlefield.

(Nathaniel Stenzel) #19

@Jeff_DeMaagd I like this vid more.

(Richard Horne) #20

@Joris_Peels Thanks Joris, that’s eye-opening stuff. As a form of faster and better manufacturing the (lighter weight) structures, I see a lot of that unfolding and becoming standard practice. I guess we will still have a chasm in the other aspects like electronics to control and wiring, motors etc. I imagine China will catch up and maybe even be faster to implement and scale-up - an interesting time for metal 3D printing, I’ll be paying more attention from now on! I’m trying to find out more from Beijing University on what it is they have actually achieved. And how.