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How Advanced Metal Additive Manufacturing (AM) is Redefining Core Parts—Part 1

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As the technology surrounding advanced metal AM continues to evolve, the applications for printing core parts are expanding. Success stories about the innovative applications of metal AM are in no short supply; different industries are constantly finding ways to incorporate advanced metal AM into their parts workflows.

These success stories showcase the many sides of advanced metal AM. By leveraging Velo3D’s end-to-end solution, parts—both new and legacy—are produced faster, more consistently, and with greater complexity to better handle the challenges of their intended application. Here, we’re going to highlight three examples where Velo3D has transformed the design and manufacturing process for crucial core parts.

Heat Exchangers

Industries, such as aerospace and energy rely on heat exchangers within their heavy machinery. We currently reside in a revolutionary time for heat exchanger design. As AM has evolved, engineers have been able to rethink the design geometries of heat exchangers to maximize the efficiency of air and liquid flow patterns, increase surface area for better heat transfer, and reduce pressure drop.

With the advanced metal AM process pioneered by Velo3D, previously unattainable internal geometries can not only be designed, but printed reliably and effectively. The end result is heat exchangers that can perform with 6x reduced pressure drop and a 60% higher effective surface area. Because Velo3D operates as an end-to-end design, manufacturing, and quality assurance system, parts can be built or modified in as little as 60-90 days, rather than the typical 12-18 months of lead time per design iteration, associated with traditional manufacturing.

For more information of Velo3D’s reimagining of heat exchangers, watch our VeloVirtual episode on the topic below.

Microturbines

Turbines are essential components to generate power that drive both manned and unmanned aircraft. While large-scale turbines weigh thousands of pounds and generate the power needed to keep aircraft in flight, microturbines are used in smaller-scale craft like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In these applications, microturbines need to be optimized to reduce weight without sacrificing performance.

On an engineering front, microturbines present a number of unique challenges in manufacturing, particularly for AM. The part displayed here contains delicate lattice structures, hundreds of small holes, dozens of internal cooling channels, and a series of thin, exceedingly tall walls. Velo3D worked in close collaboration with Sierra Turbines in the production of their Mk1 microturbine. In the design process, we were able to consolidate 61 discrete parts into a simplified “unicore” design. The resulting microturbine had a weight reduction of about half, and a performance of nearly 20x time between overhauls (TBO), and a 10x power density compared to incumbent parts.

Read about our Sierra Turbines success story here.

Fuel Tanks

Pressure vessels and tanks are commonly found on high-value vehicles such as rockets and satellites. Because of the high requirement standards of these fuel tanks, they need to be optimized in their design to minimize size and weight without compromising strength or performance. The general nature of the structure of fuel tanks makes them a unique challenge for conventional AM; they feature low angles, enclosures, high aspect ratios with thin walls, and iso-grids which are added for structural rigidity. With conventional AM processes, the taller the tank, the greater the risk for deformation and recoater collisions; as a result, oftentimes conventional AM solutions deploy supports down the center of the tank, which are extremely difficult to remove because of the tank’s enclosure.

Through advanced metal AM, Velo3D Sapphire® printers can manufacture fuel tanks that don’t require extensive post-processing to remove supports. Our SupportFree™ printing process also enables crucial weight reduction; and all in a matter of weeks of production versus months with traditional manufacturing. With advanced metal AM, the tank is also printed to incorporate iso-grids to enhance structural integrity and ensure a smoothness and uniformity of print that avoids stress concentrations or crack initiation sites.

To see how Velo3D is transforming fuel tanks, watch our VeloVirtual presentation on the subject below.

In part two we explore three more core parts that have been transformed through Velo3D’s advanced metal AM process: static mixers, turbopumps and shrouded impellers.

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