General Atomic Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has announced the first test flight of a metal 3D-printed part - a NACA inlet made in Titanium Ti6Al4V – on a SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft.
“With the GE Additive AddWorks team, we were able not only to achieve our short term objective of qualifying the NACA inlet, but we also worked together on a number of additional application development and qualification efforts, which are continuing into 2020 and beyond,” said Elie Yehezkel, senior vice president of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies for GA-ASI.
Last year, the GA-ASI AM core team selected GE Additive AddWorks to support the acceleration of metal laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) additive development at the company, with the objective of having its first 3D-printed metal part take flight within an aggressive timeline.
GA-ASI and GE Additive AddWorks began collaborating in April 2019, an engagement that included a wide range of engineering consultancy services, such as design for additive (DfAM) training, industrialization process development and materials validation for Titanium and other metals - to optimize part design and accelerate part qualification.
Following the successful test flight, the NACA inlet will now enter the final qualification phase for the SkyGuardian program.
The reimagined single piece NACA inlet in Titanium Ti6Al4V offers GA-ASI significant reductions to its weight and cost, especially when compared to the conventional method of manufacturing that makes the inlet from three parts of welded formed sheet metal Titanium, the company claims.
The inlet is now additively manufactured as a single piece, rather than three - on a GE Additive Concept Laser M2 machine - and delivers a cost reduction per part of more than 90%, weight reduction of over 30%, and tooling reduction of approximately 85%.
GA-ASI has placed an order for multiple GE Additive Concept Laser M2 Series 5 machines, which will be installed at its new Additive Design & Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Poway, California in 2020.