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Combining High-Performance Resin with 3D Printing is Just the Ticket for Aviation Company
Combining SABIC's ULTEM® 9085 resin with Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM®) technology from Stratasys, Inc., has addressed one of the biggest challenges for aerospace OEM Taylor-Deal Aviation LLC—the ability to produce small-volume, specialty parts quickly, cost-effectively, and at a lower weight. SABIC's Innovative Plastics business recently announced that its strong, lightweight, flame-retardant ULTEM 9085 resin is now being used in conjunction with FDM technology to enable Taylor-Deal Aviation to create specialty fluid and air handling parts in hours rather than weeks, while meeting the latest industry regulations for flame, smoke, and toxicity.
The combining of ULTEM and the FDM process allows for enhanced design flexibility, cost-effective, low-production runs, accelerated cycle times, and compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and OEM flame-smoke-toxicity regulations, said Brian M. Taylor, president of Taylor-Deal Aviation.
"Taylor-Deal Aviation is pioneering new technologies that give aerospace customers cost, time, and weight savings," Taylor said in a statement. "With SABIC's high-performance ULTEM resin and Stratasys' advanced FDM technology, we are creating exciting new designs that enable cost-effective manufacture of small quantities of specialty parts. This new solution is helping us to rapidly supply customers with superior components offering FAA compliance and light weight for better fuel efficiency and driving our growth into new global markets."
Having previously produced these parts with metal or fiberglass, Taylor-Deal was facing high tooling costs and longer production cycles, Taylor explained in a phone interview. The ULTEM / FDM parts are a third of the weight of a metal part and can be produced in a few days rather than weeks, he said. This is perfect for low-run, production items, he said. "It allows you to basically design a part on the computer using 3D data and, in essence, manufacture that part directly from the design model. And what that does is it really frees up design because a lot of times, you have tight space constraints and this allows for a more unique, customized design for specific applications," he said.
The parts are used both in the cabin of the aircraft and in unpressurized areas, including higher-temperature environments, Taylor said. "The mechanical parts of the material manage just fine," he said of the ULTEM resin, adding that he is developing some testing programs to establish strength and longevity data that will quantitatively show the quality of the resin and the quality of the parts, overall.
Taylor-Deal Aviation, LLC (www.tdaviation.com) offers turn-key product support, engineering design, stress analysis, test/plan report preparation, weight and balance analysis, flammability test/plan reports, and coordination of the certification effort of aircraft modifications.
It is the Stratasys Fortus 400 machine that allows Taylor-Deal to produce low-volume, complex, weight-saving parts that meet FAA requirements, said Ryan Sybrant, business development manager for Stratasys. "It is a true, just-in-time process where they can produce the parts they need, when they need them, without having to keep a large inventory on hand," he said.
The patented Stratasys FDM process, an additive manufacturing / 3D printing process, creates three-dimensional parts directly from computer-aided design files, layer-by-layer, for use in design verification, prototyping, development, and manufacturing. Because FDM is an additive manufacturing process, it allows engineers to have the freedom to design complex, free-form geometries that are either impossible or too cost-prohibitive to produce with traditional manufacturing processes, Sybrant said. "Engineers can now design for additive manufacturing and optimize parts to fit into tight spaces and reduce weight, which is essential in the specialty aircraft parts industry," he said.
Fused Deposition Modeling technology solves two key challenges for Taylor-Deal Aviation: In custom aircraft designs and modifications, there are geometric limitations that make traditional manufacturing methods ineffective. In addition, tooling for fiberglass parts and machining costs for metallic parts make them too expensive for the low-production runs that are very common in aerospace.
"Our Fused Deposition Modeling equipment is ideal for quickly producing parts with complex geometries that could not be done as easily or cost-effectively using traditional manufacturing processes," said Sybrant in a statement. "Success with FDM also depends upon using the right material. Combining FDM technology with SABIC's ULTEM resin gives customers like Taylor-Deal Aviation a total solution. It's an alternative design and manufacturing method that can create finished parts for demanding aviation applications."
Stratasys Inc. (www.stratasys.com), based in Minneapolis, is a maker of additive manufacturing machines for prototyping and producing plastic parts. The FDM process creates functional prototypes and manufactured goods directly from any 3D CAD program, using high-performance industrial thermoplastics.
ULTEM 9085 features inherent flame retardance without additives and also provides a high strength-to-weight ratio, outstanding elevated thermal resistance, high strength and stiffness, and broad chemical resistance. Compared to competitive materials, such as PEEK, ULTEM 9085 resin delivers compliance with FAA FAR 25.853 requirements, including Ohio State University (OSU) 55/55, according to SABIC sources.
"The exceptional physical properties of our high-performance ULTEM resin enhance the value of FDM technology to quickly produce differentiated manufactured components," said David Wildgoose, general manager, Engineering Resins, SABIC Innovative Plastics, in a statement. "As a result, TDA not only gains efficiencies from the FDM process, but is also able to deliver customized components that meet the most stringent aircraft safety requirements and contribute to sustainability. Using FDM with ULTEM resin presents great opportunities for a wide range of applications where there were previously no cost-effective solutions."
Wildgoose noted that aerospace OEMs are constantly seeking ways to answer industry needs for light weight, strength, and impact resistance while meeting FAR/FST requirements, all without sacrificing processability. ULTEM 9085 resin is the only material that has been proven to work effectively with FDM technology while still meeting FAR/FST requirements, and the properties of the resin make it well-suited for producing customized components, Wildgoose said in an e-mail response. "Our customers who are using it for injection molding tell us they make the choice because of superior flow, which provides a better yield, enhancing productivity. Its colorability also helps OEMs meet the need for greater aesthetics of visible parts, without sacrificing resistance," he said.
The use of FDM technology with ULTEM 9085 resin can be applied to other industries, such as rail and other transportation sectors, where it is vital to remove manufacturing costs, eliminate weight to reduce fuel consumption, improve design freedom, and meet flame-smoke-toxicity safety standards. Applications include parts and ductwork to handle air or fluids in hidden spaces, or other parts requiring complex geometries.
Ultem 9085 is a registered trademark of SABIC Innovative Plastics IP BV.
FDM is a registered trademark of Stratasys Inc.
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