Last week, Stratasys announced a three-year technical partnership with Boom Supersonic, the Denver-based startup developing a Mach 2.2 airliner. The deal with Boom follows technical partnerships announced earlier this year with the Team Penske NASCAR and McLaren Formula 1 motor racing teams.
Boom is currently developing the XB-1, a third-scale technology demonstrator for the airliner. The company hopes to fly the aircraft next year. The additive manufacturing expertise and capabilities brought by Stratasys are central to Boom's setting such an aggressive development schedule.
Under the agreement, Stratasys will install two FDM-based printers, comprising a Fortus 450mc and F370, which can be used to produce on-demand tools and parts for the aircraft. The companies are working together to identify areas where additive manufacturing can be used to greatly reduce development times through the ability to rapidly prototype parts, and where it can generate significant cost-savings. For Stratasys (Hall 4, Stand C208), it represents a good engine for driving its own internal development activities.
“The partnership with Boom represents a new development platform that is progressing towards a major breakthrough in air travel,” said Scott Sevcik, head of aerospace, defense and automotive solutions at Stratasys. “We’re excited to be a part of it from the start.”
For nearly three decades, Stratasys has been involved in additive manufacturing, having developed its FDM (fused deposition modeling) technology to enable the rapid and cost-efficient production of parts and tools of varying degrees of complexity. Through supplying systems and solutions for major OEMs such as Airbus, the company has developed a deep understanding of the technology and the certification hurdles involved in applying 3D printing to the aviation sector.
In order to address these challenges, the company is currently engaged in testing a solution to certify its FDM process for producing aircraft interior parts. A new version of the Stratasys Fortus 900mc has been developed with software and hardware changes that enhance its “repeatability” factor so that components are exactly identical across a run of many units. The company uses its Ultem 9085 resin, which meets stringent aerospace flame, smoke and toxicity requirements.
This solution is being tested in collaboration with the (U.S.) National Center for Advanced Materials Performance (NCAMP), part of the National Institute of Aviation Research (NIAR). The FAA is driving the initiative, and the tests are aimed at qualifying the material/manufacturing process to expedite the certification of parts that are produced using the solution. Tests are due to end in the third quarter of this year, to be followed by a final report.
Additive manufacturing has a bright future in aerospace. Development is being pursued by Stratasys along the lines of ever larger parts and stronger materials, as well as expanding the use of 3D printing throughout the aircraft platform.