Getting Our “Feet Wet” in Additive Manufacturing

At Aero Gear we keep hearing more and more about additive manufacturing and wonder how it will end up affecting our business in the future (both long and short term).

Is it really a disruptive technology? Can we find a way to use this technology in the near future to give us a competitive edge?

It seems like several times in our careers we have been faced with these questions. Remember composites? It certainly changed the industry and had a dramatic effect on much of the supply chain. I remember wondering whether gears would ever be made from composites. Thankfully not; however, many gearbox housings were. So, I guess it is a question of how it affects your particular individual product and business?

Our engineering team has investigated the topic and attended seminars to gain a better understanding. There is great potential, but the use of the technology on our product is controlled by our customers. Aerospace is traditionally a very conservative industry. Making parts from a new technology typically requires a new qualification for the part and flight testing for critical parts. It seems to us that applying the new technology to new designs is imminent as long as it makes economic sense for a particular component. I doubt that our customers will want to apply the technology to legacy product that requires a new qualification.

All that being said – how does a component manufacturer like Aero Gear get started so we don’t get left behind in the future? It seems like we need a way to get started in a small way so we can better understand the technology and methods.

We have decided to get started by purchasing an entry level machine that will produce plastic parts for our non-product requirements. We installed it a couple of months ago and are continuing to develop uses for it. Initially we produced a sample gear that a customer asked us to manufacture and found it very helpful for discussion purposes when discussing processing methods both internally as well as with our customer.

Next we plan on producing work holding fixtures and are investigating which plastic material is more durable for the application. Perhaps in the future we will investigate purchasing a machine that will produce tooling from metal but, those units are very expense and can’t be justified at this time.

Additive manufacturing is an exciting technology with great potential. It will be interesting to look back in 10 years and see how it all plays out. We intend to make sure Aero Gear does not get left behind!

At Aero Gear we keep hearing more and more about additive manufacturing and wonder how it will end up affecting our business in the future (both long and short term).

Is it really a disruptive technology? Can we find a way to use this technology in the near future to give us a competitive edge?

It seems like several times in our careers we have been faced with these questions. Remember composites? It certainly changed the industry and had a dramatic effect on much of the supply chain. I remember wondering whether gears would ever be made from composites. Thankfully not; however, many gearbox housings were. So, I guess it is a question of how it affects your particular individual product and business?

Our engineering team has investigated the topic and attended seminars to gain a better understanding. There is great potential, but the use of the technology on our product is controlled by our customers. Aerospace is traditionally a very conservative industry. Making parts from a new technology typically requires a new qualification for the part and flight testing for critical parts. It seems to us that applying the new technology to new designs is imminent as long as it makes economic sense for a particular component. I doubt that our customers will want to apply the technology to legacy product that requires a new qualification.

All that being said – how does a component manufacturer like Aero Gear get started so we don’t get left behind in the future? It seems like we need a way to get started in a small way so we can better understand the technology and methods.

We have decided to get started by purchasing an entry level machine that will produce plastic parts for our non-product requirements. We installed it a couple of months ago and are continuing to develop uses for it. Initially we produced a sample gear that a customer asked us to manufacture and found it very helpful for discussion purposes when discussing processing methods both internally as well as with our customer.

Next we plan on producing work holding fixtures and are investigating which plastic material is more durable for the application. Perhaps in the future we will investigate purchasing a machine that will produce tooling from metal but, those units are very expense and can’t be justified at this time.

Additive manufacturing is an exciting technology with great potential. It will be interesting to look back in 10 years and see how it all plays out. We intend to make sure Aero Gear does not get left behind!Image

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s