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500 parts in 2 days: Airbus opts for 3D printing

08 March 2021

Precisely placing together complex structures, such as a digitally assisted assembly, robotic parts or machining equipment, is one of the greatest challenges of modern manufacturing.

The Integrated Manufacturing Group is collaborating with industry partners to combine modern technologies and develop new, integrated systems. For this purpose, the group uses the "Factory 2050", an almost 48 million euro futuristic facility within the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield.

Airbus, Europe's largest aerospace company, has commissioned the AMRC research group with a challenging project – involving drilling and machining work on tight-tolerance components made of carbon fibre, aluminium and titanium. Given the strict requirements of the aerospace industry, cross-contamination between holes during these tests had to be avoided at all costs. Shortly after starting the project, the team realised that their solution could not fix the problem – threatening a delay of several weeks in case they had to metal-cut or injection-mould new spare parts.

George Sleath, Project Engineer at the Integrated Manufacturing Group, and his team turned to 3D printing to produce 500 high-precision drill caps. This reduced the lead time from several weeks to three days.

A variety of methods to prevent cross-contamination

"One of the most important requirements was to avoid any contamination of the holes during the drilling process," says George Sleath. "After drilling a hole, we had to cover it so that the cuttings from the next hole would not contaminate it. When we realised we had very specific requirements for our drill cap, we only had a short time to develop a solution."

Read the full article in the March issue of DPA.

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