3D printing produces engine covers to accelerate aircraft maintenance

3D Printed Molds for Jet Engine Covers

How a specialized local engineering company supported a major airline during the pandemic with jet engine covers made with 3D printed molds.

Airplanes Grounded During COVID-19

The world was brought to a sudden standstill in March 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic halted most travel, resulting in the immediate grounding of 62% of passenger planes. [1] Consequently, various challenges emerged, including a lack of parking real estate and increased maintenance costs for planes not designed to stay idle. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), in particular, had most of its planes exposed to Norway’s typically harsh winter.

Grounding a fleet is not an easy task. When parked for long periods, airplane engines need protection from the elements as well as other detrimental influences like debris and animals. Airlines have a few choices, such as specialized long-term storage in a dry, warm climate or a more flight-ready approach. [2] The latter involves keeping the engines covered while parked outside, aside from required weekly engine operation checks.

Standard procedures require various covers to prevent moisture and other objects from damaging the engines, keeping humidity levels stable with desiccants. Unfortunately, airlines like SAS did not have the necessary inventory of off-the-shelf engine covers, exhaust plugs, etc., for these additional grounded planes. Without proper equipment, parking the airplanes wouldn’t have been an option.

Initially, as a remedial fix, SAS used plastic wrap and tape, an acceptable approach for small-scale, short-term storage. However, with continuously idle airplanes, the engines need to be uncovered for their weekly engine starts. Jason Deadman, a production engineer at SAS, describes the eight-hour process of engine unpacking and repacking for these checks as “quite an operation.”

As the pandemic extended, a longer-term solution that was quicker and more cost-effective was needed.

airplane-jet-engine-cover-plastic-wrap

Supply Chain Interruptions

A simple solution to this lack of engine covers, of course, was just to order more. Yet, COVID-19 ignited a domino effect in global supply chains. Without access to raw material during lockdowns, manufacturing slowed down, and fewer products were being made. One survey found that only a fraction of supply-chain companies could operate without disruption. [3]

The timely sourcing of parts from usual suppliers was nearly impossible. This problem called for some creative thinking. Several companies began to work beyond the normal system, such as shifting to in-house manufacturing, chartering cargo vessels, and redesigning parts to use what was available. [4]

Specifically, airlines encountered limited ground-service equipment availability. As a result, SAS determined that shortening the supply chain was the key—harnessing more locally available resources. This option would not only solve their logistics challenges but also move SAS toward a more eco-friendly and less risky operation.

3D Printed Mold for Jet Engine Cover

Thinking Outside the Box with 3D Printing

A shorter supply chain requires a search for local opportunities. Jason at SAS thought of 3D printing as a possible solution for their supply chain issues. After all, the benefits of 3D printing align with the company’s needs and values. These include fast production, design flexibility, low volume, low cost, and minimal waste. [5] Small objects could be produced easily with this technology, but how could he procure service equipment on an airplane scale? Despite the limitations in materials and size of most 3D printers, this seemed to be an untapped opportunity for the airline. SAS asked a local specialized supplier, CNE Engineering, how 3D printing can help with its grounded planes.

Nathan Brown, the founder of CNE Engineering, began reviewing the material requirements for the engine exhaust covers. They needed to withstand extreme outdoor temperatures and exhibit chemical and UV resistance. In addition, it needed to be soft yet robust—both the engine and cover could not be damaged when covered and uncovered. Based on these requirements, Nathan considered castable urethane, a widely available and low-cost material option.

This material, coupled with SAS’s volume needs of 20–100, called for cast parts. Fortunately, CNE revealed they could still 3Dprint the casting molds, or tools used to produce the equipment SAS needed. This option also met SAS’s timing requirements—initial equipment deliveries began several weeks after the project was initiated. By utilizing their BigRep large-format 3D printers CNE Engineering was able to act quickly, and produce custom tooling and equipment in-house at full scale to meet the immediate needs of SAS during the COVID Pandemic.

Jet Engine Covers made with 3D Printed PU-Molds

From Concept to Production

Now that the manufacturing approach was determined, the engineering details of the process followed. Once the casting production process was selected, CNE designed and engineered the molds, which utilized a combination of printed materials. This arrangement had to be liquid-tight, chemical resistant, and also allow for easy de-molding (part release). The BigRep ONE 3D printer could accommodate the top and bottom mold parts, in one piece, without needing to divide or segment them. BigRep’s STUDIO was used to produce mold parts that had smaller features and required a higher level of detail (e.g., negative space required for the cover’s handles).

The manufacturing process was refined as follows: The urethane tooling is printed and assembled, a process that takes a few days. Next, liquid urethane is poured into the mold to cure, taking only hours. In the end, one person can easily remove the final part from the mold in a few minutes.

SAS received its initial order within just two months of the kick-off meeting. Orders continued with similar quantities in various sizes for the different airplanes. The hours-long endeavor of wrapping and unwrapping jet engines is now a matter of minutes for a maintenance technician and these custom-built covers.

Where Can Large-Format 3D Printing Take Us?

CNE Engineering fulfilled three key aspects of their design with their BigRep 3D printers. First, a range of material options was available that enabled them to test and experiment with final-finish materials.  Second, the build volume (1 m3) of the BigRep ONE was large enough to meet the dimensions of the jet engine exhaust with single-piece prints. Further, the print-line orientation of the mold design enabled the ease of casting and mold release.

Large-format 3D printing is an exciting innovative method of manufacturing solutions that demands unique parts or features, for example, complex curvature coupled with a flexible material.

Nathan at CNE sees endless opportunities for large-scale 3D printing. He hopes to expand designing and 3D printing tooling and equipment for other airlines with their ground-service needs as well as other industries. Nathan lists tool holders, carts, jigs, templates, and other hangar equipment as promising candidates for large-scale 3D printing. The aim is to simply “find customers and identify the need”.

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

About the author:

Dominik Stürzer <a style="color: #0077b5" href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/dominik-stuerzer/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Dominik Stürzer

SEO Manager 

Dominik is a mechanical engineer whose passion to share knowledge turned him to content creation. His first 3D prints started in university. Back then the 3D printers were big on the outside and small on the inside. With BigRep the machines are finally big in their possibilities.

Design innovative mountain bikes using 3D printing 

Canyon reinvents the mountain bike by combining efficiency and sustainability. New frame geometries are designed using topology optimization. Now thanks to large scale 3D printers, engineers can hold their creations in their hands within a few days.

Canyon: Creative from the very beginning

Ever since it was founded, Canyon Bicycles GmbH has been an innovative company. Started as a bicycle spare part dealership mainly selling parts during races, Canyon was among the first companies to start a mail order business before quickly developing their own bikes. Now Canyon offers bikes in all categories, from city bikes to mountain bikes, and employs more than 1000 people.  Working with professional cyclists like Jan Frodeno, Alejandro Valverde, and Mathieu van der Poel as well as teams like the Canyon SRAM Racing Team provides new impulses for innovation and development. To realize their ideas, engineers like Johannes Thumm, Senior Design Engineer MTB at Canyon, make use of what large scale 3D printing can offer. His task: “My work is focused on making the most lightweight and most efficient mountain bikes for racing. Exactly the bikes I like to ride myself.”

Additive Manufacturing saves time and money when designing bicycle frames

Until now, the development of a new frame concept used to be complicated, costly and most of all, time consuming. For a first prototype of a new frame, a mock-up would be welded from steel tubes.  This could then be used to attach parts and check the frame’s geometry and appearance. If problems arose a new mock-up was required, which could take weeks or even months.

For carbon fiber frames, making a prototype was even more demanding. Each design iteration required a new milled mold in which carbon fiber can be shaped into the design prototype. . This is a time consuming and therefore expensive process — the mold alone could cost between 10,000 € and 25,000 € — and again, it might be weeks before a frame design can finally be evaluated to decide if changes are necessary or not.

Canyon_Printer

This is where 3d printing comes into play. Using their BigRep ONE, engineers can print the frame geometries that had been designed on the computer within one or two days. In just a short while it is possible to have a frame in hand, to get a real feel for the product, and to compare it with one's expectations.  These design iterations greatly influence the decision to abandon a design or develop it further. Johannes Thumm: “We can simply design, print, check the frame, maybe do some modifications, print it again.”

Canyon_inspection

After a few post-processing steps like sanding, priming, and painting, the prototype looks like how the final bicycle frame will appear and is useful  for collecting aesthetic opinions from colleagues and potential customers. In case adaptations are required, the 3D printer drastically shortens iteration cycles and, therefore, the time it takes until the next frame version is available. Costs for 3D printed prototypes  are only a fraction of those made with conventional methods.

Development of sustainable frame concepts with the BigRep ONE

For an upcoming project, Canyon was forced to break new ground. The R&D department was tasked with developing a frame that should set a higher standard of sustainability, but this required solving several challenges. First, the frame should be made from only one easily recyclable material. Secondly, the frame had to be as rigid as possible for tough professional racing situations as well as improved handling for ambitious amateur rider. Finally, a maximum weight could not be exceeded.

To achieve all of these goals, Canyon used computerized topology optimization. After relevant boundaries had been set, the computer calculated the most ideal shape for the new bike frame. A number of changes and adaptations through many iteration cycles resulted in an optimized frame design that could actually be manufactured and was financially feasible. 

Canyon_frame

Without the 3D printer, iteration design process would not have been cost-efficient, or perhaps impossible. Johannes Thumm says, “3D printing already opened up so many cool chances to save time, to try new designs, extending all the possibilities of manufacturing.” 

Future development of 3D printing in the bicycle industry

Aside from bicycle design, 3D printing will accelerate product development in many other industries. As product cycles become ever shorter and customers ask for more individualized products, additive manufacturing makes it possible to react quickly to changing market conditions. By combining computer-aided design processes and modern manufacturing technologies, products can be made which were previously unconceivable.

Canyon-image

Usable bike frames out of the 3D printer are still a vision of the future. But considering the rapid development of additive manufacturing it is only a matter of time before this will become a reality. Not only would bike frames in all sizes become available, it would also be possible to provide custom-made bike geometries based on individual bodily dimensions. For Johannes Thumm, 3D printing will play an important role in the future: “There are completely new possibilities also in how a product can look like.”

3D printing will also have a huge impact on sustainability in manufacturing.  Local production instead of long-distance cargo transport and avoiding large amounts of waste material during production will lead to bicycles making an even larger contribution to protecting the environment.”

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

About the author:

Michael Eggerdinger <a style="color: #0077b5" href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-eggerdinger-a45b9814" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Michael Eggerdinger

Product Marketing Manager 

Michael is a toolmaker, a mechanical engineer, and a patent engineer. His years of working in manufacturing and as a project manager in various industries provide him with a profound knowledge of the main challenges in modern production processes. In 2017, he bought his first 3D printer to be used at home, and he has been hooked ever since!

Fast Product Development in Commercial Vehicle Manufacturing with 3D Printing

Do you make a highly specific product that you adapt to each customer’s needs and requirements? This usually involves long iteration cycles that cost both time and money. Learn how the ZOELLER group now takes just days rather than weeks to develop and optimize its custom-made components.

 

What are the challenges of manufacturing customer-specific vehicles?

With its 2,500 employees, the ZOELLER group develops and manufactures waste collection vehicles, with a special focus on the necessary lifter systems. Its products are used around the world, so they have to meet a wide range of requirements. As well as handling different types of bins, they have to comply with country-specific legal regulations that call for different safety and protection equipment. Dr. Bojan Ferhadbegović, Head of Engineering and Design at ZOELLER, said: “These machines are used around the world. They don’t just have to be fast, they also have to be highly reliable.”

The resulting customer demands call for constant adaptation. Control elements need to be installed in covers and housings, lamps  need to be positioned correctly, and numerous sensors for process monitoring need to be integrated. The product development process is a long one, because solutions need to be developed, checked for suitability and optimized. In the past, such components had to be laboriously formed from steel sheets and then discussed with the customer once complete. As well as taking a long time to develop, these prototypes were also rather limited in terms of complexity, precision and material properties. And some requested features were impossible to provide through this process. As a result, it was necessary to create the first near-series component to get a real feel for the object’s geometry and haptics.

DSC00184

How can 3D printing resolve these problems?

Several years ago, ZOELLER decided to tackle this issue and started to move away from traditional production methods and 3D print such prototypes instead. The company benefited from this decision in many different ways. It now takes just a few days, not weeks, to turn a design into a tangible object. Design departments, production departments and customers can coordinate more quickly, which produces significantly shorter iteration cycles. Change requests are quickly incorporated in the design, and the modified part can be examined just a few days later. Printed prototypes are also easy to install in vehicles, so they can be tested in real-world conditions. Marco Neuchel, Head of Development at Zoeller, says: “The great thing about parts being available so quickly is that we can try them out immediately in field tests and with our product. That means we can test the parts within a few days and then get feedback quickly.”

As well as speeding up development, 3D printing has considerably expanded options in terms of geometry and materials. ZOELLER can now, for example, include surfaces and structures that could not be created by the traditional process. And the huge range of available filaments means that even the initial prototypes are extremely similar to the parts produced later in series, especially in terms of appearance and the behavior of the material. Using ASA, for example, makes it possible to print objects whose stiffness and haptics are similar to those of the serial parts ultimately produced by means of rotational casting.

Dr. Ferhadbegović: “Our customers have very specific requirements. So we need to produce highly specific parts incredibly quickly on request – and 3D printing is the perfect tool!”

DSC02229

How did 3D printing evolve at ZOELLER?

In the beginning, ZOELLER had 3D printed parts made by external service providers. To become less reliant on suppliers and also save time and money, ZOELLER bought a BigRep ONE in July 2019. After a short training period, it was soon possible to successfully print a range of different objects, and so the numbers of printed parts swelled quickly. The ONE was soon upgraded to tandem mode, so that parts could be printed at the same time in order to further speed up production.

Two years after purchasing its first ONE, the company decided to expand its printing capacities by buying a BigRep PRO. This allowed ZOELLER to print more than twice as fast as before, and with improved precision. The BigRep PRO is fully enclosed for improved temperature management; it can also process an even wider range of diverse materials, and thus has even more applications.

Nowadays, ZOELLER prints not just prototypes, but also production equipment. Quantities range from 2 to 2,000 units, depending on the component. A 1 cubic meter build volume allows large parts to be printed in one piece, so there is no need for bonding. Alternatively, the large printing surface can be used to produce larger numbers of multiple small objects sequentially. ZOELLER now plans to print end-use parts in small runs in the near future. Some parts are reworked, e.g. primed and painted, and then subjected to weathering tests to examine their suitability for use in all weathers.

What experiences has ZOELLER had with 3D printing and its BigRep printers?

It was not difficult for ZOELLER employees to familiarize themselves with 3D printing. They were quickly able to learn what they needed to know, and the printers were integrated smoothly into existing production processes. This is partly due to the construction and design of the BigRep PRO and the BigRep ONE, and partly to the support provided by BigRep customer service. Marco Neuchel: “The BigRep PRO has been running for more than 300 hours now, and we have not encountered any problems so far. It is a really well-designed machine! And whenever we have a question about the printers or the printing process, we can get help on the phone or via email. We are completely satisfied with BigRep!”

210389B9-928D-44BE-A354-B91BDD5621F9_1_201_a

3D printing has taken root quickly at ZOELLER, and is now an integral part of the production chain. So it’s hardly surprising that Dr. Ferhadbegović is very pleased: “3D printing has become an integral part of our development process. 3D printing is definitely the future for us!”

ITERATE FAST. PRODUCE FASTER. GET TO MARKET FASTEST.

The BigRep PRO is a 1 m³ powerhouse 3D printer, built to take you from prototyping to production. It provides a highly scalable solution to manufacture end-use parts, factory tooling or more with high-performance, engineering-grade materials. Compared with other manufacturing and FFF printing solutions, the PRO can produce full-scale, accurate parts faster and at lower production costs.

Explore the PRO

ITERATE FAST. PRODUCE FASTER. GET TO MARKET FASTEST.

The BigRep PRO is a 1 m³ powerhouse 3D printer, built to take you from prototyping to production. It provides a highly scalable solution to manufacture end-use parts, factory tooling or more with high-performance, engineering-grade materials. Compared with other manufacturing and FFF printing solutions, the PRO can produce full-scale, accurate parts faster and at lower production costs.

Explore the PRO

About the author:

Michael Eggerdinger <a style="color: #0077b5" href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-eggerdinger-a45b9814" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Michael Eggerdinger

Product Marketing Manager 

Michael is a toolmaker, a mechanical engineer, and a patent engineer. His years of working in manufacturing and as a project manager in various industries provide him with a profound knowledge of the main challenges in modern production processes. In 2017, he bought his first 3D printer to be used at home, and he has been hooked ever since!

Save 70% of tooling costs in metal casting

Making patterns for metal casting used to be a labor intensive and long process. But with a large 3D printer, you can do this at the push of a button. This way, Metso Outotec saves up to 70% costs.

The Old and the New

When one speaks about foundries, most people will think of glowing furnaces and smoke-filled, sooty workshops. And even if this image is still valid, metal casting consists of many more and complex steps besides the final casting process. In order to optimize and simplify these processes and to cut costs at the same time companies like Metso Outotec are starting to implement 3D printing.

Metso Outotec is a global supplier of equipment and solutions for mineral processing and metal refining industries. Parts for the product portfolio are cast in five foundries that belong to the company. In two plants, 3D printers by BigRep are used mainly to produce casting molds and core boxes. The foundry in the Czech Republic purchased a BigRep ONE a few years ago, and in Brazil a BigRep PRO has been operating since February 2021. At the Brazil location, Patricia Moraes, who has been with the company since 2004, is in charge of implementing and optimizing their 3D printing process.

Metso_Pic_1

3D Printing Replaces CNC Milling and Makes Everything Easier

Before their BigRep 3D printers were installed, the molds and other parts were made purely of wood. The blanks were assembled from single wooden blocks and the desired shape was created by a CNC milling process. Not only did this require sourcing, storage, and handling of large and heavy pieces of wood, but the machines had to be programmed by specifically trained and skilled personnel. This process also requires a lot of time, as the blanks are mostly glued together and cannot be processed before the glue has cured. Patricia Moraes said, “It all takes so long, because we have to wait until the glue has dried.”

As their manufacturing process transitioned, many parts, like core boxes in various sizes, loose parts, and tools for the core shooting machines are now 3D printed on BigRep’s 3D printers. Metso Outotec prints specifically designed add-on parts that can be attached to simple base bodies, allowing for increased flexibility when it comes to creating a large variety of casting molds. At this stage, the interaction of CNC machining and 3D printing plays an important role. Large base bodies are still milled and are then complemented by 3D printed loose parts, while smaller parts are mostly printed completely.

Metso_Pic_2

Faster, lighter, more flexible

According to Patricia Moraes, one of the most important advantages of the new method - the much faster production process - is quite obvious: “You can say, the printer works in three shifts. I start the print today, and I have the part tomorrow.” Not only does this speed up production, it also allows for much shorter iteration cycles. Alterations to the casting molds and core boxes can be done on short notice, and desired changes can be implemented much more easily.

Metso_Pic_3

Another key benefit of using additive manufacturing is the parts are lighter and much easier to handle. Purchase and storage of the raw material is drastically simplified, as it is no longer necessary to buy large quantities of wood. Metso Outotec also makes use of the possibility to operate with different materials on the same printer. Surfaces that are subjected to higher stresses during operation are printed with material showing a better resistance against wear, for example, BigRep Pro-HT, while structures below are made of cost-saving PLA. By using the settings and adjustments provided by BigRep’s own slicing software, BLADE, the inner structure of the object can be influenced by changing the amount of infill printed in certain areas.  Load-carrying structures can be printed in a more solid manner, while in other places material and therefore weight can be saved.

Short ramp-up and important findings

After printing more than 70 parts on the new BigRep PRO, Patricia Moraes draws an overwhelmingly positive conclusion. “The ramp-up was very short. After only three months we have achieved a machine efficiency of 80%.” Findings from this learning phase were quickly turned into further process optimizations. It turned out that even when using larger nozzles and an increased layer thickness, a high surface quality could be achieved, generating parts that could be used right away with almost no postprocessing. So, time-to-part was halved, and the number of printed parts was doubled. In comparison to the previous, traditional process, Metso Outotec’s evaluations after seven months show cost reductions between 55% and 70%, depending on the part.

Bild3

The positive experience of using BigRep’s printers in production has also sparked the creativity of Metso Outotec’s employees. When asked if they were planning to use the printers for other purposes as well, Patricia Moraes replies: “We see many opportunities here, like jigs and fixtures, but also spare parts. Especially for older equipment often one must import spare parts. Because of the good accuracy and the suitable materials, there are many possibilities for us here.”

Conclusion

At Metso Outotec, everyone is pleased with the implementation of 3D printing into their manufacturing process. Here the large variety of materials offered by BigRep plays a significant role, but most importantly the helpful   support from BigRep’s employees enabled Patricia Moraes to successfully implement this modernization project: “With BigRep, we have a very good partnership!”

3D Printed Carbon Fiber Parts for Unmanned Underwater Vehicles

Unmanned Underwater Vehicle 3D Printed

The days when 3D printing only meant prototyping are over.
CET sends their parts in the harshest environment possible: Underwater.

Located in Bristol, Rhode Island (USA), Composite Energy Technologies (CET) is an industry-leading innovator in the research, design, engineering, and manufacturing of large and complex carbon composite vehicles, underwater pressure vessels, structures, and integrated systems.

Since CET’s beginning, Chief Technology Officer, Eric Goetz sought-out and developed leading-edge technologies that have been the secret ingredient for numerous Grand Prix racing sailboats, including successful America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race, and Maxi campaigns.

The CET team has built upon this legacy, breadth of knowledge, and experience to produce systems that can reliably execute diverse mission sets in severe and complex operational environments. To accomplish this, CET needed a manufacturing processes that could help them be faster, reduce costs and produce better parts.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicle 3D Printed

Big Parts. Big Ideas.

CET is not unfamiliar with 3D printing, having operated several smaller 3D printers and even one larger system, but these did not meet their needs. They realized that with the size of their parts, they required an industrial, reliable, flexible, and big printer to meet their needs and open doors to more opportunities.

Adam Ceely, Innovation and Development Projects Engineer at CET, said, “Things I was looking for (in a 3D printer) were a more controlled environment and a better operating and control system. I needed a system that will check how the print is doing, where it is on the XYZ location, and ability to change and react to the different temperatures of thermal expansion.”

In addition to producing prototypes, CET also planned to equip their products with 3D printed end-use parts. Therefore, it was vitally important that a flexible solution could be implemented that would also be easily adaptable to various challenges and changing boundary conditions. In the latest BigRep STUDIO, CET has found a machine that meets all these criteria.

Unmanned Underwater Vehicles

CET specializes in making unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), sometimes referred to as underwater drones, which are any submersible vehicles that can operate underwater without a human occupant. Historically, CET would CNC machine the fins for these UUVs out of a block of G10 fiberglass/epoxy which is very expensive and involves a ton of waste. CNC machining also requires a lot of labor hours programming the tool paths for a piece that requires the precise and complex geometry necessary in a wing shape.

Enter BigRep and the STUDIO. Now with additive manufacturing, CET can produce their fins faster, with less waste, and a fraction of the cost. Using BigRep Hi-Temp CF material with 100% infill and then post-processing parts by applying a sprayed-on polyurethane coating, they were able create a watertight seal.

This fin was made for UUV actuation and steering and was designed to integrate with non-AM systems in CET manufactured UUVs.

3D Printed Fin for Unmanned Underwater Vehicle

Integrating 3D printed parts with non-AM systems

An advantage of 3D printing is its ability to complement non-AM systems. For CET, a 3D printer was required that would accurately produce parts, which could then integrate with non-AM components. There are a few methods to combine such parts, for example...

Mechanically fastening – Printing through holes, or voids to install traditional bolts or threaded inserts.

Potting – Print a recess into a part that a non-AM part can insert into, then fill the recess with some epoxy and cure.

Taping – Take a piece of fiberglass or carbon fiber, wet it out with epoxy and then simply tape over the interface and allow the sheet or piece of fiberglass/carbon to cure.

By utilizing both AM and non-AM technology and parts, CET can expand the company’s capabilities and find viable solutions for problems that could not be solved before. Their BigRep STUDIO 3D printer allows them to do all this with the accuracy required.

3D Printed Fin: Mounted and Post Processed

Forward Thinking

“For CET, the integration between 3D printed parts and traditional carbon fiber parts comes easily, and all our staff now notices the advantages, concepts and how to work with it.” More and more people come to Adam Ceely asking, “Can we 3D print something like this?” The company is embracing and realizing all the ways 3D printing and the BigRep STUDIO helps them tackle problems that come their way. Recently CET has even begun to design and 3D print tooling for other internal processes and tasks.

When purchased, CET’s prime usage of the STUDIO was for research and development on their own manufacturing processes. It provided the freedom to print difficult shaped parts that could not be made through traditional composite layups, and the size has helped alleviate some of the roadblocks. This is especially helpful as CET creates things that have never been built before, so it is difficult or even impossible to draw from previous experiences.

“I think our biggest benefit has been really just expanding our capabilities and making us rethink our manufacturing processes.”

Adam Ceely, Innovation and Development Projects Engineer

GRADUATE FROM DESKTOP. GET INDUSTRIAL.

The BigRep STUDIO G2 gets 3D printing off your desk and takes it to the next level. Operating with the same ease as a desktop 3D printer and with 10 times the build volume, the STUDIO G2 provides large-scale industrial manufacturing capabilities in a compact “fits everywhere” build.

Explore the STUDIO

GRADUATE FROM DESKTOP. GET INDUSTRIAL.

The BigRep STUDIO G2 gets 3D printing off your desk and takes it to the next level. Operating with the same ease as a desktop 3D printer and with 10 times the build volume, the STUDIO G2 provides large-scale industrial manufacturing capabilities in a compact “fits everywhere” build.

Explore the STUDIO

3D Printed Magical Worlds and Decorations at Studio Artefact

3D Printed Magician's Ring at Burning Man

Canadian company specializing in “themed immersive experiences” uses 3D printing to create awe-inspiring structures and decorations.

When a magician approached various workshops about the possibility of building a giant spinning ring powered by a stationary bicycle, he received a lot of rejections. On the face of it, it’s easy to see why.

That magician, Joe Culpepper, had come up with the idea while reading about optical illusion rings, the history of which goes back centuries. Despite having a consistent width, such rings appear to enlarge and contract when they are rotated around the wearer’s finger. Culpepper was captivated, and he imagined what such an illusion would look like on a gigantic scale: a huge ring suspended in the sky, revolving and appearing to grow and shrink before the eyes of onlookers. The world-famous Cirque du Soleil circus was equally intrigued and lent its support to the project. But there was one hitch: nobody thought a giant ring could actually be built. Nobody, that is, except Studio Artefact.

“The thing is, if you have a wheel with spokes, it breaks the illusion,” explains Guillaume Jacques, Studio Artefact’s Director of Communications & Marketing. “The wheel needed to have the look and feel that it was floating, and this was the hard part; this was the part that everyone was saying couldn’t be done, that you would need a chain and gears. But we said, "No, we can 3D print parts and fit them on a wheel with a complex mechanism.”

3D Printed Magician's Ring at Burning Man

Studio Artefact came up with a design that would realize Culpepper’s vision of a floating illusion ring. Unlike a bicycle wheel or a Ferris wheel, both of which have spokes that connect the rim to a central hub and spindle, the illusion ring would run along a track on a hidden circular frame. Apart from a small vertical support underneath, it would appear as if suspended in the air, and a human pedaling on a stationary bicycle would propel it, creating the optical illusion. The Studio Artefact team used BigRep One 3D printers to fabricate a dozen large-scale, heart-shaped pieces that would join together to form the wheel, then assembled the structure at a music festival in Nevada.

“It was a one-of-a-kind experience,” Jacques recalls. “When we went there people experienced it and told us it was amazing.” Upon being told that the structure had been 3D printed, the festival-goers were even more impressed. “It’s the mind that meets the machine that meets the artist,” Jacques says. “It spoke to the people there.”

Big 3D Printer

3D Printing Opens Up Imagination

Founded in 1986 in the Canadian city of Montreal, Studio Artefact is a specialist in themed immersive experiences, mainly serving clients throughout North America. The company designs and constructs such experiences for places like shopping centers and museums while also working in cinema, television, and theater. A typical Studio Artefact project may involve graphic design, technical planning, welding, woodworking, painting, sculpting, light installation, and — since it began using large format 3D printers in the mid 2010s — 3D printing.

At present, Studio Artefact operates a fleet of six large-format 3D printers from German-based company, BigRep. The team works mainly with PETG, and has seen its horizons widen exponentially with each additional 3D printer installed. Prior to its acquisition of BigRep machines, it would make most of its large structures with styrofoam sculpting, welding, and woodworking techniques. Such manual work was painstaking and took much longer than 3D printing, placing a limit on productivity and profitability.

“It’s not even comparable,” explains Frédéric Letellier, head of the 3D printing department at Studio Artefact. “The time and effort that goes into hand-sculpting something, not to mention the inability to ‘undo’ or make quick changes — it’s apples to oranges! Humans need breaks and need to sleep, whereas my BigReps need a little bit of grease once a year and they run non-stop.”

According to Letellier, the simultaneous operation of six printers provides a high level of flexibility, allowing the company to complete several large projects simultaneously or, alternatively, to do “one really big project in a small amount of time.” And it’s not just the finished product that gets printed either: Studio Artefact uses its machines during R&D and prototyping, making scale models, functional prototypes, and samples for clients to demonstrate different surface finishes, resolutions, or layer heights.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of 3D printing, however, is the huge creative possibilities it unlocks. “3D printing has really been integrated into the way we think about building projects, about the feasibility of things,” says Jacques. “We really try to use that asset as a way to make our projects stand out and as a way to be creative.”

3D Printed Mall Decor and Experience

Pushing the Boundaries of Size with 3D Printed Trees

That boundless creativity can be seen in another Studio Artefact project, one that was commissioned back in 2018 for the CrossIron Mills shopping center in Calgary, Canada. For this client, Studio Artefact created a festive Enchanted Winterland, an immersive augmented reality experience of trees, archways, and dazzling lights inspired by the Canadian landscape. Christmas shoppers walking through the Enchanted Winterland could, using a specially designed app, point their smartphones to the sky in order to discover constellations, before bringing their discoveries to an area where each constellation would be displayed on a large screen.

Central to the impressive project was the design and fabrication of three huge artificial trees, each 35 feet tall and consisting of 16 different 3D printed sections of “bark” made of transparent PETG — pieces that without 3D printing would have required three separate processes: sculpting, molding, and vacuum forming. The transparent 3D printed sections housed 360° screens while also providing a frosty look that added to the Enchanted Winterland aesthetic. “We were marrying an artistic finish to something that was incredibly technologically advanced,” says Letellier.

"If tomorrow the BigReps vanished from our workshops,
it would be a catastrophe."

Guillaume Jacques
Director Communications & Marketing, Studio Artefact

Such an ambitious project was made possible by Studio Artefact’s six- 3D printer setup. Working to a deadline of around four months, the company assigned its 3D printing department four to six weeks to fabricate everything. That meant that three BigRep One printers had to be running 24/7, and any significant downtime would have thrown the project off-course. In the end, all deadlines were met, and Studio Artefact continues to put its faith in BigRep machines for even the most demanding projects.

With Christmas fast approaching, the Studio Artefact team will be busy working on its next seasonal projects. As ever, 3D printing will play a huge part. “It’s a great way to make something that’s otherwise impossible to do,” says Jacques. “It has really helped us to bring crazy projects to life.”

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

About the author:

Dominik Stürzer <a style="color: #0077b5" href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/dominik-stuerzer/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Dominik Stürzer

SEO Manager 

Dominik is a mechanical engineer whose passion to share knowledge turned him to content creation. His first 3D prints started in university. Back then the 3D printers were big on the outside and small on the inside. With BigRep the machines are finally big in their possibilities.

Large-Format 3D Printing Unlocks New Frequencies for Bell Casting

3D Printed Pattern for Bell Metal Casting

Australian Bell turns to FEA software and 3D printing to bring bell production into the 21st century.

The musical chimes and resounding gongs of bells have inspired and enchanted people for millennia; whether accompanying religious and spiritual ceremonies, used for communication or played for musical purposes. The process of making bells—known as bellfounding—is almost as captivating as the sounds emitted from the percussion instruments themselves.

Dating back thousands of years, to as early as 2,000 BC, bellfounding is a specific and finely honed craft, which has evolved in incremental ways over the centuries. Interestingly, today’s process of making bells largely resembles the casting process used for the past thousand or so years. As we’ll see in more detail, however, there have been important developments in bell design and bellfounding in recent years, unlocked through a combination of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software, BigRep large-format 3D printers, and the bellmaking expertise of Dr. Anton Hasell from Australian Bell.

How a bell gets its ring

Before diving into how 3D printing is creating new possibilities for bell production, it is first important to understand the foundations of bellfounding. As stated, the bellmaking process has been relatively consistent for over a thousand years, comprising moldmaking, casting, and finishing. Traditionally, bell molds were handmade using strickles (bell shaped paddles revolved around a central axis to make the inner or outer profile of the bell in mould refractories) or with false bell patterns made in wax or wood.) These shaped refractory materials are filled with molten metal in the casting process.

Once the mold was made, the next step was to melt the metal used for bells to a temperature of about 1100 degrees Celsius. The most common metal for bellmaking is a type of bronze alloy - appropriately called bell metal - known for its resounding properties. The molten metal was then carefully poured into the mold, and then left to cool. When the metal solidified, the mold could be removed and the bellmaker could fine-tune the bell by shaving off inner layers of metal until the right sound was achieved. The final step was to install the clapper, which creates sound by hitting either the inside or outside of the bell.

3D Printed Bell Casting Pattern

A new approach by Australian Bell

Today, while molding and casting are still employed to make bells, there are different approaches to bell design and mold production. Australian Bell, a bellmaking company founded by Dr. Hasell that was incorporated in 1998, has been at the forefront of using new technologies and techniques to broaden the possibilities of bell making, achieving new sounds and pitches, as well as modernizing the production process.

One of the key technologies used by Australian Bell and other modern bellmakers is Finite Element Analysis software, which simulates how a design will respond to external forces, such as vibration. This software has allowed for the optimization of bell designs, resulting in new frequencies and sound profiles. For instance, in 2001, in celebration of Australia’s centenary of Federation, Australian Bell used ReShape FEA software to design the world’s first harmonic bell, capable of the clearest pitch salience. This is compared to traditional European bells, which typically have partial frequencies with polytonal sounds, affecting their clarity. [federationbells.com.au]

3D printing rings in a new era in bell manufacturing

In 2014, the company was tasked with creating a new type of bell for the Long Now Foundation’s 10,000 Year Clock (built within a mountain in West Texas). The bell, commissioned by Danny Hillis, inventor and co-founder of the Long Now Clock, was a difference-tone bell, meaning it could generate a psychoacoustic pitch an octave below the bell’s actual lowest frequency. This bell design allows a bell to be half the size of a traditional bell of the same pitch to fit into the clock construction.

Once again leveraging ReShape FEA software, Dr. Hasell was able to design this challenging bell. With the success of the design, he was then commissioned to make and tune a set of 10 bells (fun fact: the musical scale of the bells was decided by British musician and composer Brian Eno!) [longnow.org]

In order to maintain the highly accurate shape of the bell design, Dr. Hasell turned to a new method of mold making; 3D printing. A large-format 3D printer from German company, BigRep was used to produce the foundry pattern for the bells.  The 3D printed patterns - in effect, 3D printed versions of the bells - were used to create precise molds for the sandcasting process.  Once the pattern was printed, it had to undergo post-processing to remove support materials. From there, it was packed with resin sand to form a mold. The pattern was then removed from the packed sand, and the sand mold was cast with a modern bronze alloy, silicon bronze metal, finished and polished, and shipped from Australia to the United States.

By using 3D printing for the direct production of the bell pattern, Australian Bell was able to streamline the bell production process significantly. Historically, the pattern-making process for bells was done manually, requiring a high-degree of skill and craftsmanship—and that’s not to mention how time-consuming it was. 3D printing removes this labour-intensive step entirely, making the pattern based on a digital design.

3D Printing a Metal Casting Pattern

More recently, Australian Bell produced another bell using this same technique. This time, Melbourne-based 3D printing consultancy Freedspace partnered with Australian Bell to 3D print a pattern for a 300 kg European-style bell. The BigRep ONE 3D printer, with a build volume of one cubic meter, was essential in the production of a bell of this size.

The benefits of large-scale 3D printing for casting

Ultimately, the combination of FEA software, 3D printing, and more traditional casting is breathing new life into bell design and production. On the one hand, FEA software is enabling the design of increasingly complex bell geometries to achieve previously impossible sound frequencies. Large-scale 3D printing, for its part, makes it possible to bring these designs to life through the production of life-size patterns. Casting, finally, ensures the same high-quality standards that bell makers have honed over the generations.

Bell Made with a 3D Printed Pattern

At Australian Bell, these cutting-edge technologies are a means to an end. That is, the company aims to introduce new bell sounds for contemporary urban designs in order to transition the communal uses for bells in modern communities. A perfect example of the company’s ongoing mission is the Federation Bell Carillon in Melbourne, a public installation that consists of 39 bells. People from all over the world can send their compositions to the City of Melbourne through a dedicated app, and the bells will play the musical tunes.

In a broader context, the Australian Bell use case exemplifies how large-scale 3D printing can supplement and enhance traditional manufacturing processes such as molding and casting. Large-format 3D printers are especially well suited to the production of sandcasting and molding patterns. Foundries are increasingly turning to 3D printing to produce patterns because it reduces production times (by directly 3D printing the pattern based on a 3D model) and cuts back on costs. Moreover, as Australian Bell demonstrated, 3D printed patterns are enabling more complex designs to be made using the casting process.

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

About the author:

Dominik Stürzer <a style="color: #0077b5" href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/dominik-stuerzer/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Dominik Stürzer

SEO Manager 

Dominik is a mechanical engineer whose passion to share knowledge turned him to content creation. His first 3D prints started in university. Back then the 3D printers were big on the outside and small on the inside. With BigRep the machines are finally big in their possibilities.

3D Printing Creates Mixed Reality Worlds

Mixed Reality Aerospace Program

How the Aix-Marseille Université aerospace facility’s technology-enhanced degree program is made possible with BigRep’s large-format additive manufacturing systems.

On Marseille’s busy south-France coast, Aix-Marseille Université, one of the largest universities in France with 8,000 staff and 80,000 students, has developed a unique accredited degree programs in aerospace engineering and maintenance by combining two novel technologies: large-format additive manufacturing and virtual reality.

Xavier Bonnardel is a doctor of aeronautics, a professor at the University of Aix-Marseille, as well as founder and director of Aix-Marseille’s technical aeronautical training school, POLYAERO. Bonnardel created POLYAERO in 2008 and, in 2016, helped establish its aeronautical formation center in the luscious Gap Tallard airfield – a 2500 m2 specialized facility for the technologically advanced POLYAERO programs. Students from all over the world enroll in the exclusive program every year, drawn by the modern tools it uses to provide a unique hands-on education, a BigRep industrial 3D printer among them.

In 1994, as France’s shipping regulations around aircraft maintenance made it difficult for universities to meet state criteria, Bonnardel took on the challenge of developing an effective university program to meet the new restrictions. In a partnership with Airbus, Bonnardel and Aix-Marseille developed their program which later became nationally recognized, making POLYAERO the first school in Europe with a part 66 C regulation-compliant bachelor program in aircraft maintenance.

Beyond simply meeting state regulations, Bonnardel and POLYAERO are no strangers to the rapidly evolving demands in education as schools strive to remain aligned with modern industries like aviation and their ever-changing technologies. The school has partnered closely with notable aerospace companies from around the world including Airbus, Dassault, and Safran to ensure they’re always at the forefront of innovation in aerospace. It’s with these close partnerships that POLYAERO has created their present exclusive program that leverages modern technology to give students unmatched hands-on experience, making them incredibly valuable to POLYAERO’s industrial partners.

POLYAERO functions with apprenticeship-style programs – not unlike the German “Duale Ausbildung” vocational training – operating in a cooperative system with leading international aerospace companies. By working with industrial giants like Airbus and Dassault, students rotate every two months between studying at POLYAERO’s Gap Tallard campus and working for their industrial employer. Positions in the programs are strictly limited to the amount of student interns POLYAERO’s industrial partners can handle, meaning at any given time POLYAERO has only about 100 students from approximately 1,000 annual applicants.

Technology-Assisted Learning in Aerospace

As a university institution, POLYAERO and Aix-Marseille simply don’t have the budget for a hangar full of the modern aircrafts that students will be working with after graduation. But without hands-on experience students are ill-prepared to enter the workforce, forcing aerospace companies to expand their training and onboarding to get new entrants up to speed. Bonnardel decided that modern technology and some simple program logistics offered a path around these limitations and, expanding on his existing 25-year relationship with Airbus, began implementing modern technology into the learning process to create a virtual reality assisted learning program.

Airbus invested in the program early on, providing POLYAERO with digital mockups of their H175 helicopter to jump start their virtual aeronautic collection. They also helped to develop the program logistics and the use of its associated technologies. In fact, Airbus was excited enough about the program to place two highly qualified Airbus employees at POLYAERO’s facilities who still work out of the Gap Tallard campus today. In turn the school continues to develop and manage the program, constantly investing in facilities to support their modern technology. Due to its high technological integration, the campus maintains a variety of technology-learning facilities: 3D labs and simulation rooms like the “Virtual Reality Cave,” a dedicated space for students to safely use the virtual reality systems with two massive projected screens that allow instructors to follow their students’ performance.

Unfortunately, the first attempt at the program didn’t satisfy POLYAERO. Students received detailed learning into the practices and processes of aeronautical maintenance but didn’t quite get the hands-on experience that Bonnardel and Airbus were looking for the program to provide.

We began to work with virtual reality, but we realized that it wasn’t very good - it was too much like a video game, not realistic enough. But Airbus wanted to development this technology and we worked together to do it.

Xavier Bonnardel, Founder and Director, POLYAERO

Floor Plan for the Mixed Reality Set-Up
Floor Plan for the Mixed Reality Set-Up

That’s when POLYAERO connected with BigRep’s French reseller, Neofab, to acquire an industrial 3D printer large enough to meet their needs as they delved into the program’s next stage. “We needed to put more physics into Virtual Reality – the mass of objects to be moved, geometrical encumbrances such as firewalls, etcetera. And thus, to transform Virtual Reality into Mixed Reality.”

Additive Manufacturing for Mixed Reality Learning

Having already acquired the tools of a virtual reality training system, POLYAERO leveraged additive manufacturing to double down on their technological solution. If virtual reality couldn’t deliver a genuine experience, they needed to mix the limitless scenarios and aircra s offered by virtual reality with physical experiences. Using their BigRep 3D printer, POLYAERO introduced Mixed Reality, to balance the benefits of virtual reality and physical, 3D printed mockup parts for an ideal training solution.

Before acquiring their 3D printer, POLYAERO tried to have students create mockup parts out of cardboard to act as stand ins for genuine aerospace parts.  While these hand-made mockup parts did offer better physical stimulus to learn, the parts were often flimsy, dimensionally inaccurate, and incredibly time consuming to create – cutting into student’s valuable learning time.

POLYAERO decided that to have a Mixed Reality program that truly enables virtual learning, the parts students are working with must be as close to the real thing as possible. Here is where BigRep’s large-format additive manufacturing systems have shined.

POLYAERO owns a few aircraft of their own.

With their part copies printed on a BigRep 3D printer, POLYAERO’s students save an abundance of time that would otherwise be wasted creating mockups, work with copies that match a real part’s dimensions, and are sturdily manufactured with BigRep’s affordable PLA filament. Because of the parts’ added strength, POLYAERO’s students are even able to include weights that further serve the realistic illusion they’ve created.

As added value, the students working with POLYAERO are gaining valuable experience with 3D printing technology and CAD software – an important tool in the modern aerospace industry. “with this generation of students we didn’t have any problem,” Bonnardel said when asked how students have been getting along with the integration of this new technology. “For them there is no problem.”

Virtual Modeling with 3D Scanning

Though the majority of POLYAERO’s fleet is digital, there are a few aircrafts of their own in the Gap Tallard campus’ 700 m2 hangar: two Dolphin SA365 helicopters and a Lark 3 SA316 from Airbus, a TB10 and MCR4S, a KOMPRESS class 6 ULM and five UAVs. All these aircrafts were provided free of charge by POLYAERO’s industrial aerospace partners.

POLYAERO adds to their ever-growing database of virtual aircrafts by using 3D scanning to create digital copies of every part on the aircrafts they routinely acquire on a temporary basis. Students get hands-on with aircrafts in real life, tearing them down to individual parts and reverse engineering them. By doing this they not only help to build their school’s virtual database, but also garner their own experience.

“It’s like making a painting,” Bonnardel said as he explained how students easily scan airplanes and helicopters before treating the files with specialized so ware to create a final, perfect digital copy of the aircraft and all its parts. “We can reproduce or improve the aircraft, if you want.”

Student also learn how to scan 3D objects....

Hands on Prototyping

Students aren’t just learning how to work with and maintain existing aircraft parts. POLYAERO has installed a wind tunnel so that students can design, print, and test their own part prototypes. By running parts through the wind tunnel students can perform an aerodynamic analysis, collecting the data they need to understand their part’s effectiveness. When using prototypes printed on their one-cubic-meter BigRep 3D printer, students can easily test, verify, and reiterate designs – just like industry professionals.

“For students it’s just a job of engineers. It’s practical engineering because they not only know theory but practice,” said Bonnardel. “It was unthinkable five years ago.”

Growing use of plastic AM in Aerospace

While creating their prototypes, POLYAERO’s students are gaining valuable experience with one of the most prolific, and iconic, additive manufacturing applications in the aerospace industry. Industrial giants have cut up to 90% of prototyping costs by integrating additive manufacturing into their workflows. Adapting these workflows has brought processes in-house to eliminate outsourcing expenses, unlocked unlimited iterations and dramatically reduced each iteration’s lead time to create an affordable prototyping process that gets companies’ innovations to market faster. By familiarizing students with this common process, POLYAERO is ensuring their success in a common aerospace engineering workflow that only continues to grow.

But 3D printing is quickly finding use in other areas of the aerospace industry too, with some of POLYAERO’s partners like Airbus creating affordable logistical aids – like shipping cases for delicate aerospace equipment – that can traditionally cost up to $15,000 on-demand with BigRep’s additive manufacturing systems.

Students also use their BigRep printer to create new solutions, like cases for sensitive parts.
Students also use their BigRep printer to create new solutions, like cases for sensitive parts.
...and to use their BigRep printer to recreate those or other parts.

Conclusion

Other methods of production simply couldn’t meet POLYAERO’s needs for realism and flexibility. While they could have outsourced their mixed reality mockup parts, the costs would have been prohibitive. Given the variety of parts that POLYAERO works with, the initial investment in their own industrial 3D printer was returned quickly compared to other possible acquisition strategies. By bringing a BigRep large-format 3D printer in-house, POLYAERO has created a flexible system that not only supplies the strong, realistic parts they need for their mixed reality programs, but also adds a valuable industrial tool to their state-of-the-art facilities. With it, they’re enriching students’ educations with one of the aerospace industry’s most disruptive technologies.

POLYAERO has observed such positive results from their mixed reality bachelor programs that they have decided to take the next step and create a Master of Aerospace Engineering program based upon the same principle. Bonnardel says that the program will carry on learnings taken from their previous experience to create a program that focuses more on the impact that industry 4.0 will have on aerospace engineering than other programs that exist today.

Applying an additive manufacturing solution to surpass the shortcomings of virtual reality assisted learning is just one of the many creative ways industrial additive manufacturing is finding unique, previously unexplored applications in advanced industries. POLYAERO’s impressive mixed reality program serves to show that when talented engineers work to redevelop traditional processes from their foundation, large-format 3D printing and BigRep additive manufacturing solutions result in previously unimaginable efficiencies and reinventions.

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

Setting the Pace for Customized Electric Cars – The First BigRep PRO in China

X-EV Electric Car Customization with Large 3D Printer

XEV is an innovative, forward-thinking company, with a mission to provide sustainable urban mobility to everyone for a better shared future.  And additive manufacturing plays an important role in development and production of their electric cars!

Traditional methods of producing cars typically involve large, complicated moulds and tools that are not only expensive, but also part specific.  By implementing additive manufacturing and the BigRep PRO into the production line, XEV has virtually eliminated the need for limited and resource intensive tooling, resulting in a flexible and efficient manufacturing process.  3D printing has allowed for fewer components, faster technical updates and significantly reduced production cycles.  It also dramatically reduces production costs meaning the savings can be passed on to our customers.

BigRep PRO in China 1

3D Printing Enables the Customisation Business Model

One of the key benefits of AM is customization.  And for XEV, it’s of the main benefits they provide to their customers. Thanks to the standardized fixing method between the customized parts and the car body, the 3D printed pieces will be able to be modified and changed with significantly less engineering work.

This is not very common in the automotive industry: shifting toward a more customer oriented manufacturing process. XEV is pushing the cutting edge innovation technologies and also places the individual user into the centre of the focus for an exceptional user experience.

“We are working very closely with some key customers to develop their own customized version of their cars,” said Jiawei Wu, Additive Manufacturing Director at XEV

There are two layers of customization that XEV is focusing on. The first layer is the design surface customization, which can represent  individual identity or the corporations value. The second layer of customization has more profound influence for the automotive industry, XEV will be willing to develop further our modular upper body in order to fit various needs.

3D Printed Parts for Electric Vehicles

“The PRO gives us better geometric precision thanks to its reliable machine design. Then it’s versatility provides us more opportunities to try different material and processes. With the PRO, it's much faster for us to develop more customization possibility and applications,” said by Jiawei Wu, Additive Manufacturing Director at XEV.

3D printing provides us a customer oriented process, and it gives us a lot of chance to trial different geometries. Also inside XEV’s smart manufacturing center, there is a very strong application team including professionals with good understanding of design and engineering. This team is the key intermedia connection between the customers and our smart manufacturing center.

The BigRep PRO for the Win

XEV arrived at the BigRep PRO after an extensive search for the right 3D printer that would help them fulfill their mission.  For XEV, size of the printer played a huge role as did the versatility of the system and it being an open material system.

XEV is currently using the PRO for three main applications.  First, for small volume test production as they are developing a lot of customized versions of Yoyo (their electric car) components.  Second, XEV does a lot of material testing on BigRep PRO, mainly fiber reinforcement materials.  And third, XEV does some traditional application like prototypes, fixtures, some production tooling.

Try out different things and different geometries. Thanks to the size and openness of the system, XEV is able to test out and try out a lot of different designs and geometries.  The BigRep PRO is the right tool for XEV to continue innovation for the future of customization in electric cars and provide a fast, customer-oriented experience.

ITERATE FAST. PRODUCE FASTER. GET TO MARKET FASTEST.

The BigRep PRO is a 1 m³ powerhouse 3D printer, built to take you from prototyping to production. It provides a highly scalable solution to manufacture end-use parts, factory tooling or more with high-performance, engineering-grade materials. Compared with other manufacturing and FFF printing solutions, the PRO can produce full-scale, accurate parts faster and at lower production costs.

Explore the PRO

ITERATE FAST. PRODUCE FASTER. GET TO MARKET FASTEST.

The BigRep PRO is a 1 m³ powerhouse 3D printer, built to take you from prototyping to production. It provides a highly scalable solution to manufacture end-use parts, factory tooling or more with high-performance, engineering-grade materials. Compared with other manufacturing and FFF printing solutions, the PRO can produce full-scale, accurate parts faster and at lower production costs.

Explore the PRO

Large-Format 3D Printing Accelerates Fire Engine Manufacturing

3D Printing Fire Engine Manufacturing

Magirus uses large-format 3D printing for prototyping  of fire engines

Behind every firefighting team that responds to emergencies and fires, there is a fire engine, and behind every fire engine, there is a team of engineers working hard to deliver the safest and best-performing vehicles and features. That is precisely where Magirus comes in. The Germany-based company was founded in 1864 by firefighter Conrad Dietrich Magirus with the aim of pioneering state-of-the-art firefighting vehicles and products. Today, over 150 years later, large-format 3D printing is helping the company to continue this mission and move fire safety & disaster control solutions into the future.

Large-scale 3D printing heralds new era for fire engine prototyping

3D printing is not wholly new to Magirus. The company, which supplies a large range of fire fighting vehicles, turntable ladders, equipment and equipment wagons, special solutions, pumps and
portable pumps, has been using the technology since 2015 to enhance its prototyping and product development. Like most 3D printing adopters, Magirus initially worked in collaboration with external 3D printing service providers. In 2018, however, as the demand for large-scale prototypes increased, the company decided to invest in its own in-house 3D printer, the BigRep ONE.

Since then, 3D printing has become an integral part of Magirus' prototyping and product development workflows, especially for the production of aesthetic and ergonomic fire engine parts measuring more than 300 mm in length. Magirus' Chief Engineer in Prototyping Jens Krämer and his team frequently use the BigRep ONE to 3D print functional prototypes, which can be fitted and tested on trucks in order to validate the part design before moving ahead with tooling and production.

"Before 3D printing, prototyping was very expensive," Krämer states, explaining that his team used to rely on hand lamination and milling processes—both of which are time consuming and costly—to produce prototypes before moving ahead to final tooling.

With 3D printing added to the prototyping workflow, the Magirus team has not only dramatically reduced its prototyping costs (from nearly a hundred-thousand euros to just thousands of euros), it has also achieved much faster part development lead times. "It used to take from 3-6 months, depending on the size and capacity of the prototyping workshop, now it's a matter of the printing time on the machine, so just a couple of days," Krämer says.

The time and cost savings afforded to Magirus' prototyping department by 3D printing have also enabled more agile part development, which helps the company to meet the needs of its firefighter clients. In other words, large-scale 3D printing allows Magirus to rapidly manufacture and validate prototypes, which in turn enables it to update and improve its fire engines and firefighting solutions based on customer feedback.

Rapid response for production

While Magirus' main use for its in-house BigRep ONE 3D printer is prototyping, the fire engine manufacturer is also starting to explore the use of the technology for small-series production. In fact, the company's first 3D printed end-use part is now undergoing the final stages of validation for use aboard fire trucks.

The part in question is a window frame for a fire engine crew cab door. The crew cab is a fire truck designed to carry at least nine crew members. As one can imagine, it is important for the firefighters to have as much visibility as possible from the cabin as they approach the fire or emergency scene they have been called to. Magirus was thus asked by its firefighter customers if it could install an additional window into the frame of the crew cab door to improve visibility from inside.

In developing the window, the Magirus team used the BigRep ONE to 3D print a prototype of the frame—a structural element designed to connect the outer shell of the door to its inner side. The quality of the prototype window frame was ultimately so satisfactory that the team decided to forego tooling altogether and 3D print the end-use component. The production part, which measures roughly 800 x 600 x 150 mm, was 3D printed using a higher resolution than the initial prototype and was made from a high-temperature carbon fiber reinforced polymer, HI-TEMP CF.

"Because the volumes are low, we have started pre-series production for the [window frame]," says Harald Fitz, Chief Engineer of Firefighting Standard Vehicles at Magirus. "What we are also doing is testing and validation because the part has to be rigid and withstand the circumstances where firefighters are using their trucks… This is ongoing at the moment, but we are confident that the part will withstand all the testing we are applying." The 3D printed window frame is being tested for vibration, impact, and heat deflection temperature, among other things.

By leveraging 3D printing for the crew cabin window frame, Magirus not only benefited from faster and more cost-effective prototyping, it has translated these benefits to end-use production. Most importantly, it has found a way to address and meet the requests of its customers, who rely on the company's products and systems to save lives.

3d-printer-production-fire-truck

BigRep ONE 3D printer

Vital to Magirus' successful use of 3D printing—both for prototyping and now end-use production—is the BigRep ONE 3D printer. Manufactured by Berlin-based BigRep, the BigRep ONE is a large-format industrial 3D printer that has an install base of over 400 systems globally.

The system is characterized by its massive build volume, totaling one cubic meter, and its compatibility with several polymer filaments, including PLA, TPU, PETG, and HI-TEMP CF, an engineering-grade biopolymer reinforced with carbon fiber. The BigRep ONE also integrates two BigRep Power Extruders with interchangeable nozzle sizes, facilitating multi-material printing or the use of water-soluble supports.

For Magirus, the size and industrial capability of the BigRep ONE were big draws. Not only is the machine suitable for manufacturing the large-scale prototypes the company requires for its fire trucks, but it also can be used to produce several smaller components—such as the window frame—in a single batch. The adjustable 3D printer settings, such as resolution, also allow the company to rapidly manufacture prototypes at a lower resolution and enhance the print quality for end-use parts.

"As you can imagine with the size of our vehicles, the parts [we needed] were getting bigger," says Krämer. "After a final evaluation, we decided to purchase the BigRep ONE. Firefighting vehicles are the ideal product of 3D printing due to the amount of vehicles produced and because high customization and individualization—and even digitalization—require quick and fast solutions."

"I'm quite confident that we could increase the quantity of parts being produced by the BigRep ONE 3D printer," Fitz adds. "Starting from prototyping, and now having the first part produced in a small series, I could really imagine that for special cases or for special parts we could move completely to 3D printing. The BigRep ONE 3D printer is really suitable for that."

In other words, this is just the beginning of production 3D printing for Magirus. 3D printing technology has the potential to open up increasing opportunities for custom and low-volume parts for fire engine manufacturing applications. Who knows, the next Magirus fire truck you see could be fitted with a 3D printed component!

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

LARGE-SCALE INNOVATION. LIMITLESS CREATIVITY.

The BigRep ONE is an award-winning, large-format 3D printer at an accessible price point. With over 500 systems installed worldwide, it's a trusted tool of designers, innovators, and manufacturers alike. With a massive one-cubic-meter build volume, the fast and reliable ONE brings your designs to life in full scale.

Explore the ONE

About the author:

Dominik Stürzer <a style="color: #0077b5" href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/dominik-stuerzer/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><i class="fab fa-linkedin"></i></a>

Dominik Stürzer

SEO Manager 

Dominik is a mechanical engineer whose passion to share knowledge turned him to content creation. His first 3D prints started in university. Back then the 3D printers were big on the outside and small on the inside. With BigRep the machines are finally big in their possibilities.

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