Metal 3D Printing Benefiting Aeronautics

A Partnership That Saves Time and Cost

In February 2020, a US aeronautics company – GA-ASI – successfully performed its first test flight of a metal 3D printed part onboard its remotely piloted aircraft platform. This endeavor was supported by AddWorks, a company that pioneered metal additive manufacturing to full production.

GA-ASI or General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc is a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, electro-optic and related mission systems. GA-ASI already has significant experience with polymer-based 3D printing, and has recently made strides in developing its metal additive manufacturing process. The company has identified a series of parts and groups of applications with potentially favorable business outcomes. The company partnered with AddWorks in 2019 to support the acceleration of metal laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) additive manufacturing while also strengthening the qualification of both its products and processes.

AddWorks provides a step by step consultation service for adopting 3D printing, which begins with defining the business case, building a team, and identifying funding opportunities. It has helped Honda R&D Japan, Korea Aerospace Industries Association and America’s Triumph Group in accelerating their adoption of metal additive manufacturing. The objective of the partnership for GA-ASI was to have its first metal 3D printed part take flight within a short time span (eight months) and it achieved its goal.

Combining the deep domain expertise of metal additive manufacturing and best practices from both GA-ASI and Addworks allowed these companies to move quickly and work within the timelines set. The additive manufactured component offers significant reductions in weight and cost when compared to conventional manufacturing models.

The AddWorks team has become trusted advisors to GA-ASI and will continue providing consultancy and expert advice as it moves to further scale metal additive manufacturing across its business. It has been important for GA-ASI to remain at the leading edge of manufacturing technologies for their products and customers. This only means that partnerships like that of GA-ASI and Addworks help to accelerate the maturation of metal Additive Manufacturing strategy and to inform of the best approach to a much wider application space.