Helping to save lives

Two key reasons for shortening the lead time for new projects, according to a supplier to the aerospace industry, are to capture new markets, and to reduce costs. The cost of a project, it believes, is proportional to the length of the development period.

Designer and manufacturer of aircraft ejection seats, Martin Baker Aircraft, has installed a 3D Systems’ Actua 2100 concept modeller to play a key role in the reduction of lead time and development costs.

All design and production design is carried out-in house. Since Actua has been installed, it is no longer necessary to produce a drawing as it takes the electronic geometry directly from the Unigraphics system and builds an exact reproduction in plastics. A simple handle, it is estimated, costs £3-£4 to make compared to a machined cost of about £150.

Operating as a network peripheral to the workstations, Actua is the size of a large office photocopier. A sealed cartridge, which operates in a similar manner to that of an inkjet printer, contains the thermopolymer modelling material. The print head speeds back and forth, building up layers of the thermopolymer material which solidifies to form the physical part.

New or revised designs of the more than 2000 parts that make up a seat can now be reviewed and tested to identify any changes needed at the earliest design stages.

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