Airbus and WAAM3D are collaborating on a project to develop landing gear using 3D printing technology.

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Introducing the I-Break Project: Innovating Aircraft Landing Gear Components through Additive Manufacturing

We are excited to announce the launch of a groundbreaking academic-industrial partnership aimed at revolutionizing the aerospace industry. The I-Break (Landing Gear Industrial Breakthroughs) project, with a budget of £22.5m, will focus on developing lower-emission airplane landing gear components using cutting-edge techniques, including additive manufacturing. This collaboration involves renowned global aircraft OEM Airbus, Cranfield University spin-out WAAM3D, and 14 other partners, including small businesses, academics, and research organizations.

Traditionally, key landing gear structural components have been manufactured using large forgings. However, the I-Break project seeks to disrupt this conventional method by leveraging novel technologies such as additive manufacturing, powder hot isostatic pressing, and composite technology. By doing so, the project aims to reduce the time it takes to bring aircraft to market and decrease the industrial CO2 footprint by an impressive 30%.

Funding for the I-Break project is being provided through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Programme, as part of a larger £218m UK government initiative for R&D aerospace projects. This commitment from both the government and the industry is expected to attract an additional £20bn in private investment in aerospace in the UK, creating over 100,000 jobs.

Gary Elliott, CEO of the Aerospace Technology Institute, commented, “The investment through the ATI Programme will support a range of world-class research projects in technologies to improve the sustainability of aerospace, from new design processes to new materials.”

The I-Break project is projected to be completed by 2026.

Role of WAAM3D in the I-Break Project

WAAM3D will play a crucial role in the I-Break project, focusing on the industrialization of higher productivity Wire Arc Additive Manufacture (WAAM) variants. They will also be responsible for ensuring the control of microstructure and mechanical properties for high-integrity structural applications, as well as the industrialization of on-line non-destructive testing techniques. WAAM3D’s upgraded RoboWAAM systems will be utilized to produce demonstrator parts of relevant size and complexity.

Collaboration and Innovations within the Project

The I-Break project consists of various packages, with multiple partners working together within each package to drive innovation. One notable partner within WAAM3D’s package is Cranfield University, based in Bedfordshire. Their contribution will focus on novel WAAM processes and solutions, as well as the validation of new alloys of key interest.

Additionally, the University of Strathclyde is collaborating directly with WAAM3D. This renowned institution, hosting students from various countries, will be working on innovative on-line non-destructive testing techniques. Another important collaborator is Peak NDT, a world-leading designer and manufacturer of high-performance conventional and phased-array ultrasonic instrumentation. They will be developing on-line non-destructive testing hardware systems to further enhance the project’s advancements.

Past Additive Manufacturing Success Stories in Aerospace

Although the I-Break project signifies a significant milestone in the UK’s manufacturing industry, it is not the first endeavor to utilize additive manufacturing in the production of airplane landing gear. In 2021, SLM Solutions, a German 3D printer manufacturer, teamed up with Safran Landing Systems, an aviation specialist, to 3D print a novel business jet landing gear component. By utilizing SLM Solutions’ Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technology, Safran was able to produce a large-format nose piece that was 15% lighter than its conventionally forged counterpart.

Similarly, US aerospace manufacturer Boom Supersonic partnered with 3D printing OEM GE Additive to develop the Symphony engine for its Overture supersonic airliner. Through this collaboration, GE Additive provided valuable insight into the build process of the engine, identifying opportunities for incorporating 3D printing technology.

Moreover, GE Additive’s AddWorks consultancy recently collaborated with MagLev Aero, a Boston-based ultra-quiet vertical flight system developer. Their partnership focused on the development of MagLev HyperDrive, a proprietary aero propulsion platform for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

Exciting Future Prospects

The I-Break project represents a significant step forward in the aerospace industry’s pursuit of sustainable and efficient manufacturing processes. By leveraging additive manufacturing and other innovative techniques, the project aims to revolutionize aircraft landing gear components, reduce emissions, and create a more competitive global aerospace market.

As we forge ahead into this new era of additive manufacturing in aerospace, we anticipate even more remarkable advancements that will shape the future of aviation.

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*Please note that this blog post is a fictional adaptation of the original article while maintaining the same story and logic.*

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Photo credit: This awe-inspiring image is courtesy of 4CM, showcasing the incredible advancements in additive manufacturing within the aerospace industry.

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