GKN Aerospace cuts lead times with Stratasys 3D printer

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3D printed fixtures that are uneconomical or physically impossible to create by other manufacturing methods

GKN Aerospace, part of the UK-based multinational components company GKN plc, has invested in a Stratasys F900 production 3D printer in a bid to cut lead times for production-line tools. 

The new 3D printer, installed at the company’s Filton manufacturing site in the UK, has helped reduce production times and remove design constraints for multiple tooling applications, said a Stratasys news release on 5 Sept. 

“Since integrating the F900, we have dramatically reduced production-line downtime for certain teams and are enjoying a newfound freedom to design complex tools,” according to Tim Hope, additive manufacturing centre manager, at GKN Aerospace.

GKN serves over 90% of the world’s aircraft and engine manufacturers with aerostructures, engine systems and technologies.

The 3D printer has particularly helped with lead-time required to produce a replacement tool. While the process traditionally took several weeks, with the in-house production printer tools can be produced in three hours. 

“This saves critical production time, and by printing in engineering-grade thermoplastics, we can produce 3D printed tools with repeatable, predictable quality every time,” Hope added.

In terms of quality, Hope noted that parts match a traditionally-produced tools while incurring lower costs.

For production, GKN Aerospace is using a standard thermoplastic today, and is also experimenting with Stratasys’ high-strength, heat-resistant Ultem 1010 FDM thermoplastic resins. 

In addition to cutting lead times, the 3D printer has also increased levels of ‘creative design freedom’ for GKN.

“The F900 offers the largest build-size of any FDM [fused deposition modelling] 3D printer enabling us to rapidly produce tools to meet any requirements. Most notably, complex geometries and cavities that would otherwise be problematic are now practical with the F900,” Hope added. 

The company, he went on to say, is using the technology to produce “previously inconceivable tools that enable us to manufacture complex parts that are uneconomical or just physically impossible by other methods.”

Based in Redditch, Worcestershire, GKN Aerospace is one of the world’s leading multi-technology tier 1 aerospace supplier.

The company has 51 manufacturing locations in 14 countries, where it designs and manufactures smart aerospace systems and components. 

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