BWT has established a dedicated, scalable Additive Manufacturing (AM) Centre with strict manufacturing, process and quality controls. Therefore, this ensures that every manufactured part is consistent – with the added benefit of reduced lead time, lower cost and weight.
Significant investment has been made over the past three years with regards to material characterisation and machine/process controls. To date, these investments have resulted in over 100 part numbers becoming aerospace-qualified across four major OEM aircraft programmes.
BWT's Investment in Additive Manufacturing
BWT’s AM capabilities are able to offer a new viable option when it comes to low-to-medium volume aerospace parts. For example, certain types of parts that previously would have been manufactured in aluminium, can now be produced more efficiently in thermoplastic. BWT has predominantly used thermoplastics in its conventionally manufactured parts with aluminium interfaces.
BWT can offer CAD designs based on live test data. Through those, we can very rapidly and economically 3D-print test parts to confirm the final design function.
BWT's Dedicated AM Facilities
BWT has a long history of building purpose-built facilities on its premises. We have done the same for our AM department. Firstly, our dedicated facility is temperature and humidity-controlled to meet material demands. Secondly, it boasts certified and calibrated hand measurement tools including purpose-built, part-specific validation gauges.
Our AM facilities offer appropriate dimensional verification equipment, such as point and scanning CMM and highly functional printed part pre- and post-processing stations. In addition, they include a state-of-the-art vacuum drying oven for material conditioning. Lastly, our trained and time-served AM professional staff are dedicated to full time design and production activities.
Among our unique capabilities are the requisite quality procedures, our manufacturing processes and testing under AS9100 and ISO9001 controls. BWT’s AM facilities also feature new AM Product Introduction. Moreover, we have complete system design experience of end use parts for flight and rigorous qualification testing for a highly regulated industry.
BWT's AM Materials Expertise
Currently, BWT utilises thermoplastic Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) and metallic DMLS for end-use parts. For tooling and production aids, BWT adds BJP and MJF to the technologies used.
BWT's investment in AM has been ongoing for a number of years. Starting in 2009, BWT’s first non-production FDM printer was used to evaluate, learn and evolve. Since 2015, as the AM industry had drastically improved its hardware, software and materials portfolio, BWT invested in a thorough re-assessment of the seven main AM methods in order to determine the best options for our customers’ and business needs.
After narrowing down our most suitable options to FDM, BJP and DMLS, in 2016, BWT invested in the purchase of the first of our production orientated BJP ceramic 3D printers. In 2018, we expanded to FDM AM printing.
BWT's Technical Excellence
For any project, BWT determines the time, cost, weight and technical suitability to examine the most suitable manufacturing method.
BWT offers a wide spectrum of composites – for tooling, production aids, jigs and fixtures, among others. However, our business has noted an increasing demand for AM specific tooling or hybrid (part AM/part conventional).
The switch from conventional to AM products is a methodically-controlled process. BWT has already converted several suitable parts from conventional to AM.
Advantages of BWT’s AM Expertise
BWT offers its undisputed knowledge of components and processes with its AM capabilities. In addition, it also offers distinct benefits in lead time, cost time, weight reduction, and the ability for customisation:
- Lead-time reduction
At BWT, we have identified several categories of aluminium parts which can be made using AM. This has the potential to reduce lead-time by as much as 90% - without the need for minimum order quantities to obtain a price reduction. BWT’s AM produced tooling has also proven to drastically reduce lead-times from weeks, down to days. It has also allowed the integration of sacrificial build aids to be incorporated into production parts, thus reducing specific production part assembly time by over 2 hrs/piece.
- Cost reduction
A key asset of 3D printing is cost saving benefits - mainly thanks to the lack of fees necessary for moulding. BWT’s range of products is highly complex and intricate, therefore costing for each individual part is assessed on a product-specific basis.
- Weight reduction
With aerospace certified thermoplastics having a typical weight of 1.34 g/cm³ against aluminium at 2.7 g/cm³, there are clear weight savings to be made. Not only for aerospace but for a variety of other industries.
One of the main benefits of AM is its adaptability in customisation. Traditionally in aerospace, customisation was by default more expensive, due to its uniqueness and lower volumes. With BWT’s 3D printing capabilities, these constraints are much less relevant.