A World’s Record for Aerospace 3D Printed Parts

Engine of airplane.

(DGIwire) – What is the largest solid 3D-printed part ever made? According the Guinness Book of World Records, as of August 2016, the record-holder comes from the aerospace industry. That month, Guinness awarded this accolade jointly to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee and aerospace company Boeing, for a 3D-printed trim tool used for manufacturing the Boeing 777X passenger jet.

As reported by 3DPrint.com, the tool—which was printed in just 30 hours—extends 17.5 feet long, 5.5 feet wide and 1.5 feet tall, and weighs a whopping 1,650 pounds. It was printed in a facility operated by ORNL by a machine appropriately called the Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine. Boeing plans to use the giant tool in its production facility in St. Louis, where it will be used to secure the 777X’s composite wing skin for drilling and machining before assembly.

“As 3D printing technology continues to expand at an exponential rate, within the aerospace sector and in other sectors, it is likely that size records will continue to fall,” says Mark J. Cola, President and CEO of Sigma Labs, Inc. “However, one thing that will never change is the need for efficient and effective quality-control protocols built into the additive manufacturing process.”

Sigma Labs has developed a proprietary, patent-protected, quality assurance software suite called PrintRite3D® that transforms the 3D printing process. In contrast to traditional quality assurance that is performed after-the-fact, PrintRite3D® works in real-time to assist quality inspectors in sorting acceptable from suspect components.

The PrintRite3D® suite benefits aerospace companies that are 3D-printing metal parts in three aspects. The first involves metallurgy: in addition to optimizing the structure/property/parameter qualities of metal parts, Sigma Labs’ software allows engineers to assess each part’s microstructure—scanning and collecting data on potential weaknesses (like “pores” in the metal). The second benefit involves geometry: the software helps capture images of every layer of metal as it is being incorporated into the part; this data, available digitally, gives inspectors the ability to detect any distortion or misalignment as parts are made and intervene in real-time. Finally, the software enhances a company’s productivity by collecting Big Data regarding the performance of multiple 3D printers at multiple locations into a single database.

With a core facility in Santa Fe, NM, Sigma Labs offers clients a comprehensive one-stop shop for 3D metal printing and process engineering; alternately, Sigma Labs can offer its suite to clients at their own facilities. The company has signed agreements with GE Aviation, Honeywell Aerospace and Woodward for test and evaluation of its PrintRite3D® technology.

“When it comes to 3D printed parts for aerospace, the sky’s the limit—not only in terms of part size but how well we can analyze the quality of parts as they are being made,” Cola adds.

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