Aerospace sector can save money using Metal AM zero gravity

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The Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) of Germany planned to produce tools using additive manufacturing in weightlessness for the first time. The goal of the experiments was to demonstrate that astronauts can produce their own tools or spare parts on a space mission if required.

Additive manufacturing processes are the future of sustainable production,” (…) “In the aerospace industry, where every kilogram counts, can be achieved enormous cost savings if only a printer and powder instead of an entire tool case and components have to be carried on board”, said Ulrich Panne, president of BAM.

In the experiment, carried out in cooperation with the Technical University of Clausthal and the DLR Institute for Fiber Composite Lightweight Construction and Adaptronics in Braunschweig, BAM tested an innovative 3D printing technology in zero gravity during the DLR’s 31st parabolic flight campaign on last March. Metallic powders were used for the first time under zero gravity conditions. These enabled a complete fusion of the powder by means of laser radiation to a finished component. The challenge lied in the handling of a powder which is potentially flammable or explosive. The research group had therefore developed a new process that allows the processing of metallic powders under a protective gas atmosphere.

The consortium has developed a new technology for coating the powder, which is considered to be very difficult under zero gravity conditions. In order to stabilize the powder bed with the enclosed component even without gravity, the scientists used a continuous gas flow that is sucked through the powder layers and thus sucks in the particles. They went one step further and demonstrated the process for the additive production of metallic components for space missions.

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Christoph Hammerschmidt Smart 2.0 3D printing of metallic objects in zero gravity can save money for space projects published on Mar04 and re-edited by João Andrade on Apr18, 2019;

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