French 3D printing firm unveils additive forging for aerospace

French 3D printing specialist Prodways Group has unveiled a new additive manufacturing process claimed to be ideal for producing large titanium parts for the aerospace industry.

Example of titanium part produced using the process

The company claims that its so-called Rapid Additive Forging (RAF) process represents a significant improvement over existing titanium component production methods, which often involve a combination of forging and machining techniques. “Certain titanium parts have manufacturing lead times of more than 12 months and implies significant metal wastes,” said the company.

It claimed that the RAF process – which combines elements of additive and subtractive machining – could enable cost savings of upto to 50 per cent on titanium part production.

The technology uses a robot head to deposit molten metal layer by layer in an atmosphere of inert gas. This part is then finished using traditional subtractive machining technology. According to the firm it is able to complete a large part in just a few hours

Prodways claims that the technique differs from other so-called hybrid processes in that it uses a specially developed metal deposition technology that ensures superior metallurgical properties for the end component. The firm said that first metallurgical tests conducted on different parts revealed an absence of porosity and greater mechanical resistance compared with usual 3D metal printing techniques using laser or electron beam sintering.

The process has been tested on various metals, including titanium, and is currently able to produce parts of more than 70 centimetres in size. Prodways said that it is now developing a version that will print parts of up to 2 metres in the main dimension.

The firm said that the technology has already attracted the interest of a number of leading industrial groups.