A sintering process that can produce 0.5m3 (1.6ft3) parts in around 10h is the focus of a three-year, £650,000 UK project that could lead to aerospace components 50% lighter than today. The automated, selective sintering infra-red laser system can produce metal parts with lattice structures 25microns thick. Today the process produces 250mm3 (9.83in) parts using one laser. The improved process for larger components will use four. The lasers sinter layer after layer of powdered metals, creating a lattice structure that means 70% of the component’s mass is air.

The metals can be stainless steel, titanium or aluminium. Successful tests on aluminium parts have just been completed. The process also allows metals to be mixed in different layers to provide different properties. “We hope to have a component in a composite wing section at some point,” says University of Liverpool department of engineering lecturer Christopher Sutcliffe. The University’s industrial partners are Osprey Metals, Stryker Orthopaedics and Mining & Chemical Products, who have provided £200,000. Sutcliffe is also working with EADS and BAE Systems.

The project, called Rapid Manufacture of Industrially Relevant Hierarchical Structures, is supported by £450,000 from the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Source: Flight International