Oerlikon and Lufthansa to jointly accelerate AM processes

Oerlikon AM and Lufthansa Technik will jointly establish replicable additive manufacturing (AM) processes and standards for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) applications to guarantee robust and repeatable processes on multiple machines in multiple locations.

Oerlikon and Lufthansa will jointly establish replicable additive manufacturing processes and standards for maintenance and repair – image courtesy of Lufthansa.

Oerlikon, a technology and engineering group, and Lufthansa Technik, a provider of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for civil aircraft, engines and components, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish robust and repeatable processes for additive manufacturing (AM) in the aircraft MRO industry.

According to Oerlikon, the partnership is an important step toward the industrialisation of AM in the aircraft MRO industry and aims to take advantage of the potential flexibility and cost savings in manufacturing, procurement, warehousing and supply chain management.

Eddie Andrews, additive manufacturing business development manager at Oerlikon, explained to The Manufacturer: “One aim of Oerlikon’s collaboration with Lufthansa Technik is to create robust and repeatable manufacturing processes.

“Lufthansa Technik is an MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) company, which aims to ensure it can manufacture the same aeroplane parts in the same conditions on different machines across the world. The vision of companies operating in MRO markets is to be able to 3-D-print the same spare parts on demand, in any location.

“For example; at the airport, aeroplanes need maintenance, and sometimes parts have to be replaced. Ideally, an MRO like Lufthansa Technik would like to send an order to a local site, print the part needed and apply it to the aircraft.

“However, it is not yet possible to realise this vision. When a company qualifies an aeroplane part, it has to be qualified for a specific machine with a specific material. If you wanted to transfer the manufacturing process of a specific part to another machine, you would have to requalify the parameters, which takes a lot of time and becomes a costly endeavour.

The companies will build up representative component geometrics - image courtesy of Lufthansa.
The companies will build up representative component geometrics – image courtesy of Lufthansa.

“With Lufthansa Technik, we create a structural framework that allows us to manufacture the same single part with our machines in Germany, in the US and with Lufthansa Technik’s machines in Hamburg.

“We are using the same process parameters, the same powder, the same machine types and the same machine setups. In theory, all the elements and processes are the same.

In this way, we can understand what the variables are, that we need to control to manufacture the same quality across three machines on different manufacturing sites.

“It is an exciting programme enabling the overall vision of where the industry needs to go to achieve: robust, repeatable processes that deliver high quality and consistent results.”

Oerlikon AM and Lufthansa Technik will build up representative component geometrics. The components will be printed on identical printers in three global locations: Oerlikon AM Charlotte (North Carolina, USA), Oerlikon AM Barleben (Germany) and Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg (Germany).

The same process parameters and powder specifications will be used to understand process repeatability. The partnership is for a one-year period and may be extended to other models of printers as more data on manufacturing processes is collected.

Bernhard Krueger-Sprengel, senior vice president, Engine Services at Lufthansa Technik, told The Manufacturer: “Additive Manufacturing is on the threshold of becoming a standardised manufacturing process.

“In the future, companies will not only need to master the process of additive manufacturing, they also have to be able to undertake repairs of complex parts in an inexpensive way. At Lufthansa Technik, we are preparing our business to be able to offer our clients these new manufacturing services, therefore, we founded a new centre for additive manufacturing.

“Instead of manufacturing new parts, we are focussing on additive repair procedures and the authorisation of the parts according to air traffic regulations. We predict that in five years’ time, additive manufacturing processes will comprise a sizeable part of our repair services portfolio.”