EADS and GKN have teamed up at their Filton research centres to drive a radical new manufacturing technology to the aerospace market.

So-called additive layer manufacturing (ALM), a technique for effectively growing parts from layers of resin and plastic powder or from layers of metallic powder sintered together by laser or plasma beams, has already been used by EADS to make structural parts for Formula 1 cars.

EADS demonstrated the technique earlier this year by making a bicycle. But now the partners are pushing to do the same for aircraft.

GKN vice-president technology Rich Oldfield says it is early days, but "the opportunity is endless".

ALM technology slashes waste compared to traditional forging followed by machining away up to 90% of the material to reach a finished shape. It also cuts weight, as no non-structural materials need to be included.

Cost also falls by cutting the time from design to manufacturing to mere hours and making low-volume runs cost-effective by eliminating the need for much of the dedicated machinery associated with traditional manufacturing.

GKN's expertise in metallic structures is already feeding into a Rolls-Royce bid to use sintered powder techniques to make turbine blades. GKN has made the first blanks for final machining and testing by R-R.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news