3D-printed landing gear is 15% lighter

May 18, 2021
The trial involved 3D printing the main fitting for the nose landing gear of a business jet layer by layer from titanium alloy powder by selective laser melting.

Safran Landing Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of French multinational aerospace company Safran SA (Paris, France) and a supplier of landing gear, has teamed up with German powder-bed metal additive manufacturing equipment specialist SLM Solutions (Lübeck, Germany) to evaluate the feasibility of using its technology to produce large, safety-critical aircraft components.

The trial involved 3D printing the main fitting for the nose landing gear of a business jet layer by layer from titanium alloy powder by selective laser melting, a world first for such a large part measuring 455 × 295 × 805 mm tall. The component was redesigned to optimize production using metal powder-bed additive manufacturing, leading to a time saving in the build process and a significant weight reduction of around 15% compared with if the part were to be milled from a forging.

Due to the stringent demands placed on this component, which is one of the landing gear elements that transfers the load from the front wheel to the aircraft structure and is retracted after takeoff, titanium is the ideal material due to its good mechanical properties, durability, and resistance to corrosion without the need for surface treatment. SLM Solutions was chosen as a partner because of their expertise and the availability of an SLM 800 machine at its facility in Lübeck, which exactly met requirements in terms of size and reliability.

In a vertically extended build envelope, the machine is equipped with SLM Solutions’ quad-laser technology and other innovative features such as a patented gas flow system and a permanent filter, which ensure high reliability. One of the strengths of SLM technology is its flexibility. Design changes can be quickly made and modifications printed and tested, so less time is spent in prototype development.

Gerhard Bierleutgeb, EVP Global Services & Solutions at SLM Solutions explains, We were able to produce this main fitting in a few days on the SLM 800, whereas it would take a few months using a traditional process based on a forging.”       

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