Hybrid DED project offers sustainability boost

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A consortium led by the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) is working with leading aerospace companies on a Hybrid Direct Energy Deposition (DED) project.

Aircraft landing gear (Image: NMIS)

The ‘Hybrid Direct Energy Deposition (DED) Sprint’ project counts Airbus and Safran Landing Systems among its collaborators, and aims to cut costs alongside lead time savings and sustainability benefits for critical component manufacturing through a combination of forging, forming and additive manufacturing.

Funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and supported by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the project’s partners include NMIS Digital Factory, Cranfield University and the Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC) based at Queen’s University Belfast, along with an industry steering group of 13 companies.

The group is working to devise a new hybrid DED process that will help overcome current challenges that manufacturers face in relation to the expensive and time-consuming process of manufacturing critical components required to operate under harsh environments.

Looking to ‘streamline and future-proof production’, the method combines the low costs and flexibility of forging, high production rates of forming and design adaptability of additive manufacturing (AM). It also includes the benefits of parallel kinematic machine (PKM) techniques, which combine the dexterity of robots with the accuracy of machine tools.

Traditionally key aerospace parts, such as those within an aircraft’s landing gear, are forged and then machined, but using Hybrid DED methodologies can reduce tooling, forging, and machining requirements.

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Adding features directly onto forged and formed substrates using AM leads to a more efficient manufacturing process with less materials waste. This also opens up opportunities for new repair and remanufacture methods.

While currently focused on the aerospace sector, the team said the method will be applicable across wide-ranging industries including oil and gas, defence, space and automotive.

The first two project phases are led by Cranfield University and NMIS, which is operated by Strathclyde University. They are underway with plans to deliver a demonstrator component later this year.

The third phase, led by the NITC, will focus on PKM machining whilst the final proof-of-concept phase will compare traditional and alternative manufacturing routes.

“This project has real potential to deliver more efficient alternative manufacturing routes for aerospace companies, and will enable key industry drivers such as reduced embodied emissions, remanufacturing, and more resilient supply chains,” said project PI Stephen Fitzpatrick, additive manufacturing and machining lead at the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland.

NMIS, Cranfield University and the NITC are working closely with the steering group to ensure project deliverables are aligned with industry requirements, de-risking future steps such as qualification and certification of Hybrid DED components.