Lighter titanium inserts for spacecraft with metal 3D printing

atos-materialise-titanium-inserts-4
Atos titanium inserts

In a never-ending search for lighter and more durable components, the aerospace and aeronautics industry is a real driver for reliable manufacturing technologies and state-of-the-art engineering. Through their Certified Additive Manufacturing process backed by certifications EASA Part 21G and EN9100, Materialise Manufacturing offers cost-effective solutions for rapid prototyping as well as manufacturing of end-use components.

By Radhika Dhuru

Did you know that each kilogram put into orbit costs around $20,000 today? Every gram saved helps make space a more attainable frontier. While designing or engineering a component for a spacecraft, the crucial challenge is weight optimization. And it can’t come at the expense of component strength or performance.

“Classical inserts are commonly constructed in aluminum or titanium in a brick-like shape, as they are manufactured by machining. They are completely solid filled, which makes them high in mass and costs.”

Materialise Manufacturing worked together with the engineering division of Atos, a global leader in digital services, with the aim of re-inventing a titanium insert that is widely used in the aerospace sector to transfer high mechanical loads in structures like satellites. With a cleverly optimized design produced through Metal 3D Printing, the new titanium inserts are just one-third of the initial weight, with some improved properties added in.

Inserts in sandwich structures

These inserts are typically used as mounting points, to attach devices to satellites. Such inserts are often highly loaded, lifting large and heavy structures. That means they have to exhibit a great strength-to-weight ratio: it’s a part that has to have high specific strength and rigidity but at a minimal weight.

The inserts are co-cured with the composite structure sandwich panels that typically are used in aerospace structures. The inserts transfer the load to the panel through an adhesive.

Classical inserts are commonly constructed in aluminum or titanium in a brick-like shape, as they are manufactured by machining. They are completely solid filled, which makes them high in mass and costs. In addition to the material costs, heavy components also raise the operational costs for the spacecraft on each launch.

Metal 3D Printing, however, can address those concerns — while still allowing for the use of the same materials, aluminum and titanium.

The complete article appeared in the May/June edition of 3D fab+print magazine. Be sure to get in contact to receive a copy.