GKN Aerospace and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have signed a five-year research agreement focused on additive manufacturing. Utilizing the DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, this $17.8 million USD cooperative research and development agreement will advance the family of hugely promising additive manufacturing processes, supporting progress towards their use in the manufacture of major, structural components for aircraft.
Mike Grunza, CEO of GKN Aerospace’s Aerostructures North America business said, “We are extremely proud to work with the world-renowned Oak Ridge National Laboratory to speed progress towards fully industrializing these processes. Additive manufacturing will continue to increase its vital role in engineering design spanning civil and defense aviation, revolutionizing the design and manufacture of structures across the entire airframe and engine. Additive processes could cut material waste by as much as 90 percent and manufacturing times by around 50 percent and will unlock new manufacturing horizons, allowing us to create complex components with no performance compromise.”
“GKN is a key manufacturing employer in the U.S., particularly in the St. Louis area. By partnering to address R&D challenges and opportunities, companies like GKN can ensure growth and employment in the U.S. for years to come,” said Mark Johnson, director of the Advanced Manufacturing Office at the U.S. Department of Energy.
The first focus of the agreement will be to develop a process called laser metal deposition with wire (LMD-w). LMD-w is an additive manufacturing technique that builds metal structures by using a laser to melt metal wire into beads onto a substrate layer by layer. The partnership aims to create a prototype machine that will manufacture complex medium- and large-scale aircraft structures in titanium.
The second focus will be on a process called electron beam melting (EBM) that can produce precise, complex small- to medium-sized components. A metal powder is melted with an electron beam, again building up the component layer by layer. The partnership will support work already in progress, aiming to make this process ready for introduction into full-scale, high-volume aerospace production.
“Additive manufacturing has the ability to be one of the most profound technology disruptors of our day,” said Moe Khaleel, associate laboratory director for Energy and Environmental Sciences at ORNL. “This new partnership will leverage our core capabilities in high-performance materials research, leading to improved efficiency of materials and energy usage for aerospace applications.”
GKN has an unrivaled global Additive Manufacturing technology and powder expertise, with five dedicated development centers operating around the world. Each center focuses on progressing specific materials, additive processes and technologies.