GKN Aerospace cuts production time with Stratasys

GKN Aerospace has seen an improvement in its assembly tool production times since integrating Stratasys additive manufacturing at its Filton manufacturing site in the UK.

The company invested in the Stratasys F900 Production 3D printer to attempt to cut lead times for production-line tools, and to create complex parts otherwise ‘impossible’ to make with traditional manufacturing methods, said Tim Hope, Additive Manufacturing Centre Manager at GKN Aerospace.

Hope added that since integrating the F900 the company has “dramatically reduced production-line downtime for certain teams.”

Traditionally, the lead-time required to produce a metal or plastic replacement tool is several weeks, but GKN Aerospace can now “cost-effectively produce tools for our operators within three hours,” Hope explained.

“This saves critical production time, and by printing in engineering-grade thermoplastics, we can produce 3D printed tools with repeatable, predictable quality every time. All while matching the quality of a traditionally-produced tool, and reducing the costs and concessions compared to equivalent metallic tooling.”

GKN Aerospace is currently using a standard thermoplastic but is experimenting with Stratasys’ high-strength, heat-resistant ULTEM 1010 Resin material for these applications. The company has also seen a 40% decrease in material waste.

Hope continued: “The F900 offers the largest build-size of any FDM 3D printer enabling us to rapidly produce tools to meet any requirements. Most notably, complex geometries and cavities that would otherwise be problematic are now practical with the F900. We’re utilising it to design, and 3D print, previously inconceivable tools that enable us to manufacture complex parts that are uneconomical or just physically impossible by other methods.”

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