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23rd April 2019, Araba, Spain

IDEC slashes costs with Stratasys 3D printed tool

IDEC’s Diego Calderón with the 3D printed moulding tool. © IDEC.

IDEC’s Diego Calderón with the 3D printed moulding tool. © IDEC.

With aerospace customers including Airbus, Dassault and Fokker, IDEC, based in Araba, Spain, specialises in the development and series manufacturing of carbon fibre parts based on its extensive know-how in resin transfer moulding (RTM) technology.

“The main characteristics of our parts are complex shapes, a high level of integration, accurate thickness, high fibre volume and good surface finishes, with the cost-effectiveness of not using autoclave,” explained the company’s structural analysis manager Diego Calderón at JEC World 2019 in Paris. “We are a NADCAP accredited company for both composites manufacturing and ultrasonic inspection.”

Recently, the company has been working within a government-sponsored project, partnering with advanced prototyping company Wehl & Partner, of Rottweil, Germany and employing the latter’s Stratasys F900 3D printing system, in order to cut the time, cost and material waste associated with composite moulding processes.

The aim of the project was to to investigate the potential of RTM in the production of a curved aircraft wing component and together, the two companies have developed a new 3D-printed preform tool made from high-temperature and pressure-resistant Stratasys Ultem 1010 resin that allows the carbon fibre part to be electrically heated, rather than the tool itself.

Typically, IDEC’s preform tools have been made from either epoxy-based carbon composites or aluminium, but neither was suitable. “Although there are epoxy resins resistant to such high temperatures, they are very expensive, and would not have been financially viable, while an aluminium tool would prevent the current from effectively going through the composite fibres,” Calderón explained.

“Ultem 1010 resin, as a non-conductive material with excellent chemical, heat and pressure resistance, was the solution for the tool,” said Calderón. “The project required high temperatures of between 150°C and 180°C to heat the fabrics directly. Additive manufacturing at this stage enabled us to achieve a massive time reduction, because while the CNC machining preform tool production process would have traditionally taken about a month, the timeframe was reduced to just 60 hours. “

“In addition, we reduced the composite heating stage from an hour to just ten minutes by flowing the electrical current directly through the composite fabrics. This would not have been possible without Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing. As a result, we cut costs compared to that of CNC machining an aluminium preform by 67%.”

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