Today, the dream of flight revolves around producing aircraft components using industrial 3D printing technology. Every company aims to open up opportunities to differentiate themselves in the marketplace – in terms of new customer benefits, potential cost savings and sustainability targets. Thanks to EOS additive manufacturing technology, Liebherr is getting closer to achieving this goal. The realization of a high-pressure hydraulic valve block using EOS metal 3D printing technology marks an important milestone. This valve block has now been successfully tested on a flight with an Airbus A380 aircraft.
A couple of years from now, we believe that metal 3D-printed parts such as the valve block will be manufactured in series at Lieberr- Aerospace and delivered to our customers.
The 3D-printed valve block has proven that additive manufacturing with EOS technology is feasible for building critical primary flight components.
The solution was to develop a design and process chain for implementation in the aviation industry using the reliable and high-quality industrial 3D printing technology by EOS. First, the conventional part was analyzed. Hydraulic structures were identified and auxiliary sections were removed. The positioning of the main components was reconsidered in light of their installation space and interface requirements with the aim of optimizing intelligent, short connection lines. This laid the foundation for the design of the new part. “With industrial 3D printing, complexity is suddenly no longer an issue. On the EOS M 290 system, components are built up from a large number of thin layers, each 30 to 60 μm thick, which enables us to build complex geometries," explains Alexander Altmann, Lead Engineer Additive Manufacturing, Research & Technology at Liebherr-Aerospace Lindenberg GmbH. “The functional elements were directly connected to one another using curved pipes. This avoids the need for a complex system of pipes with lots of transverse bores, saving time in production."
The material of choice, a titanium alloy, is particularly suitable for aviation since it offers a range of advantages. It enables weight savings to be achieved, as well as cost efficiency during operation, since it is very light and mechanically stable and has very good corrosion resistance. Postprocessing steps include e.g. heat treatment for stress relief, as well as a special treatment for the hydraulic channels.
Finally, “There must not be even the slightest doubt as to the reliability and safety of the components and the material from which they are made. With EOS technology, we are able to reliably manufacture highest-quality titanium components, which is a prerequisite for the next step of serial production," explains Alexander Altmann.