LMD Additive Manufacturing Expands in Aerospace


This article was originally published on Design News on JAN 30, 2019

The 3D printing processes of laser metal deposition (LMD) and directed energy deposition (DED) are revolutionizing how the aerospace industry designs and builds high-value components across the manufacturing spectrum from prototyping to production.

By Rob Spiegel

Formalloy is using laser metal deposition to 3D print aerospace components for rocket nozzles and heat exchange. (Source: Form Alloy)

Formalloy is using laser metal deposition to 3D print aerospace components for rocket nozzles and heat exchange. (Source: Form Alloy)

Aerospace components have long been fabricated using traditional manufacturing methods such as forging. That method requires significant post processing. 3D printing offers new alternatives. Laser-based additive manufacturing provides an alternative, single-step method for producing complex, multi-material, dense or porous, near net-shape parts that often outperform their traditionally manufactured equivalents, offering enhanced properties.

3D printing company, Formalloy, is producing parts using a laser-based process because of its ability to create new advantageous shapes. “Our technology is known as LMD. That’s a method where you blow power and heat it with a laser. You build the part layer by layer,” Melanie Lang, managing director at Formalloy, told Design News. “The first advantage of this process is the ability to achieve design features such as internal cooling chambers or multi-material components with two different metals in the same part. Those types of parts can’t be created by traditional manufacturing methods.”

The LMD process also reduces waste when using high-priced materials. “In a part that is entirely titanium, the LMD process offers the advantage of efficiency,” said Lang. “We’re much more efficient with the material itself using LMD. Also, there’s a lead-time advantage, since you don’t have to go through a tooling process to get the geometry you need.”

Lang will present the session, Metal Additive Manufacturing for Aerospace Applications, at the Pacific Design and Manufacturing show in Anaheim on Feb. 5. The session will cover:

  • Laser-based additive manufacturing as an alternative method for producing metal parts

  • The laser metal deposition process and key components

  • The display parts made from laser metal deposition, such as sample rocket nozzle components

There are many parts in aerospace that are now being produced through the LMD process. “LMD parts that were seeing in aerospace include sample rocket nozzle components,” said Lang. “Other examples include a heat exchange component that’s part of a rocket nozzle. The additive manufacturing geometry includes inlets in the wall that are for cooling.”

Many of the parts that are produced in aerospace cannot be produced by any method other than LMD. “Lattice structure are used to reduce material and weight. It would be hard to make these with any other technology,” said Lang. “You reduce weight but still get strength. Using LMD, you can create space in the component for quick cooling.”