Why BWT selected Stratasys as its AM partner
BWT has had a keen interest in Additive Manufacturing (AM) for a number of years.
Below, we will outline why BWT selected Stratasys as its AM partner following extensive testing and research.
2001 – 2009
BWT was an early starter when it comes to AM. Our engineers started studying AM industry trends and progressions as far back as 2001. By 2009, we were investing in our first basic AM equipment to further grow our own understanding of the technologies.
By 2015, BWT had formed a dedicated team of engineers. They explored various AM technologies and highlighted those that provide the best opportunities in a production environment. Over the next couple of years, BWT established technical partnerships with a number of UK-based AM Specialists. This resulted in the support of various studies, experimentations and examinations into the benefits of AM printing.
In 2018, BWT achieved a milestone in Additive Manufacturing.We successfully managed to integrate a Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D printed part onto one of our products used on a commercial aircraft: the optimisation of a smoke detector pilot tube used in a fire suppression system. This part yielded a 30% reduction in component weight and cost compared to its traditional Aluminium counterpart.
Continued R&D along with the promise of our first results, led BWT to the investment of two Stratasys Fortus 450mc FDM printers. The Stratasys FDM technology offered an effective solution for BWT. Their high-performance materials comply with stringent aerospace standards. Coupled with our machinery, BWT could decisively meet the demands of its projected production volumes.
In 2019, BWT installed the state-of-the-art FDM equipment into a purpose built AM Centre. This would serve our engineering goals and also provide the wider aerospace industry with lighter, cheaper and customisable low pressure ducting parts.
In March 2021, following the development of our dedicated facilities, BWT made a relevant announcement in collaboration with Stratasys. You can read and download the Press Release by clicking here.
The two industrial-grade Stratasys’ Fortus 450mc printers allow BWT to build end-use production parts, tooling and development parts for commercial aircrafts, as well as military, private jet and rotorcraft markets.
The 3D printing process is a very welcome change of pace if we compare it to previous methods of production. The procedure is simple and straightforward, yet well-defined and controlled. It begins with an optimised CAD design. Then we load the file on the 3D printer, add the relevant parameters and timings, and start to build. This development cycle usually takes a few days (for a medium-sized aerospace part). In the past, similar programmes could take up to a several weeks.
Thanks to the production process controls developed by BWT, this is now a slick and easy process. We pull the dedicated build files from a secure database and load them onto the printers. Then we set the printers up, leave them to work their magic and, soon enough, our products are complete.
FDM is the technology of choice for BWT’s aerospace production components. It offers the least complex post-processing and most importantly, it is traceable from part to source. However, we have also successfully used and qualified metallic DMLS for end-use flight approved parts. For tooling and production aids, BWT adds BJP and MJF to the technologies used.
More information can be found on our Products section, though it’s worth adding that FDM has proved very useful for our thermoplastic requirements. It has also proved to be lighter, cheaper, and technically simpler solution for many aspects of our production lines.