GKN Aerospace has entered a strategic partnership with additive manufacturing specialist, Arcam AB, to develop and industrialize one of the most promising of the new ‘additive’ processes to meet the needs of the expanding future aerospace market. The joint technology development (JTD) partnership is focused on developing electron beam melting (EBM), a process in which metal components are built up, layer-by-layer, using a metal powder that is melted by a powerful electron beam. EBM is able to produce very precise, complex, small to medium-sized components that require very little finishing. As part of this agreement, GKN Aerospace has ordered two ARCAM Q20 EBM machines to be installed at GKN Aerospace’s Bristol, UK additive manufacturing (AM) center.
GKN and ARCAM engineers will then work together to create the next generation of EBM equipment, able to manufacture complex titanium structures at the high volumes required to meet future demand, GKN says. “We have been working with Arcam for some time exploring what we believe to be one of the most promising of the additive processes,” Russ Dunn, senior vice president Engineering & Technology, GKN Aerospace explains. “Our aim has been to fully understand how EBM can be applied to our future aero structures and aero engines portfolio. Through this new strategic partnership with ARCAM our combined additive manufacturing teams will now take the next steps towards fully industrializing this AM technology.”
He adds: “We believe the array of processes that fall under the ‘additive’ umbrella will revolutionize manufacturing across every industrial sector—particularly in aerospace where cost, weight and performance are critical. Drawing on GKN Powder Metallurgy’s experience and our own extensive aerospace expertise we aim to develop a roadmap that will industrialize additive manufacturing for this sector.”
The agreement forms part of the GKN group’s major AM research and development initiative. Within the GKN Aerospace business, four dedicated global AM development centres have been established in North America and Europe each focused on progressing specific additive processes and technologies.
GKN says it feels additive processes have huge potential for the future aerospace sector.