3D printing: adding a new dimension

Additive manufacturing is a method that Safran has been using for several years in its production centers. “Safran Additive Manufacturing” is a new entity that is part of Safran Tech. Its mission is to support more widespread adoption of this technology within the Group, and to conduct research programs to develop the products and services of the future.

 

Additive manufacturing is gradually being deployed across Safran's different companies. Several of them have already adopted this method, in particular for manufacturing complex parts (in metal, plastic or ceramic) for LEAP engines, the Vinci space engine and Arrano or Ardiden 3 helicopter engines, for example. "The method is called ‘additive' because the printer produces three-dimensional objects, using a computer-assisted-design model, by adding extremely thin, successive layers of material*,"explains Thierry Thomas, Vice-President of Safran Additive Manufacturing. "This technology enables us to achieve considerable gains in terms of productivity and performance, says Thierry Thomas. The entity was created in 2015 to coordinate Safran's efforts with our partners in the fields of research and industry." 

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Several models of printers

As early as around 2005, Safran began installing 3D printers. Today, the Group owns around fifteen machines, three of which were purchased recently by Safran Additive Manufacturing. One of these uses an electron beam while the other two use a laser beam. One of the machines will make it possible to produce parts which require more detailed finishing. The team is made up of twenty engineers whose mission is to drive research into specific aspects of these processes (powders, metallurgy, laboratory and field control, digital simulations of different scales, etc.) The team's role is also to help the Group companies master these processes in order to speed up the design and certification of increasingly complex parts which are just as reliable as those manufactured using conventional techniques. "Today, Safran is focusing on non-critical complex industrial parts. But we are in a phase of rapid acceleration, adds Thierry Thomas. Our objective is to ramp up our production from several dozen to several thousand parts a year, and to move from non-critical structural parts to complex, or even smart, functions."

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* thickness of 20 to 100 microns