GKN Aerospace - Northrop Grumman collaboration achieves additive manufacturing milestone


Additively manufactured (AM) titanium aerostructure component demonstrates latest in large scale AM capabilities

At approximately 8 feet (2.5 meters), the component is the largest additive manufactured aerostructure produced by GKN Aerospace

GKN Aerospace has completed its largest structural titanium additive manufacturing (AM) demonstration to date with the production of a component measuring 8 feet (2.5 meters) and processed from approximately 100 pounds of titanium.

The demonstration, conducted in collaboration with aircraft manufacturer Northrop Grumman, focused on the additive manufacturing process of laser metal deposition with wire (LMD-w), which successfully doubled the scale of previous components produced. The ability to scale additive manufacturing technology–also known as 3D printing—for large aerostructure components has a wide range of aerospace and defense applications. Additionally, the technology enables components to be produced faster than current methods, uses raw materials more efficiently, and may ultimately result in reduced costs.

This collaborative milestone demonstrated cutting-edge manufacturing methods to build large aircraft components. Additive manufacturing technologies, combined with digital transformation and analysis capabilities are enabling novel approaches to design and advanced manufacturing processes.

Francisco Flore Vice president, production operations, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems

Manufacturing of this component took place at GKN Aerospace’s AM Centre of Excellence located at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Demonstrations like this are vital to enabling full industrialization of the LMD-w process for aerostructure components which feature complex geometry found in titanium aerostructure designs.

Shawn Black, President of GKN Aerospace Defense Business said: “This achievement further advances GKN Aerospace’s research into laser metal deposition, expanding on the material science and process development for aerostructure and engine components. We appreciate the opportunity to work with Northrop Grumman to accomplish this milestone in large scale additive manufacturing.”

GKN Aerospace opened its second US-based LMD-w cell at Oak Ridge in 2019 as the world’s largest pilot production cell of its kind, focused on research and development of large scale structural aircraft components. A third AM cell – the largest at 5m by 2m in size – will follow before the end of 2022, as GKN Aerospace continues to push the boundaries of additive technology.

GKN Aerospace is already a world-leader in LMD-w technology for complex engine components from its Global Technology Centre in Trollhättan, Sweden. Future applications of AM for large-scale aerostructures will include: product development, low-rate initial production and the transition of technology development into production solutions. GKN Aerospace already has additive manufacturing components flying on major platforms across civil, military, and space markets.

Photo caption: Large additive manufactured titanium aerostructure