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Lift off: 3D Printing for Airbus A380 Systems

World premiere in civil aviation due to Chemnitz know-how in lightweight design

Light, resource-efficient, environmental friendly: On behalf of Airbus and Liebherr-Aerospace Lindenberg GmbH a research team of the Chemnitz University of Technology realized a high-pressure hydraulic valve block in the 3D printing process that is now tested for the first time in a flight test on an Airbus A380 aircraft. The high-pressure hydraulic valve block is a safety critical hydraulic component of primary flight control and drives the spoilers on the wing surface. The Chemnitz researchers of the Professorship of Lightweight Structures and Polymer Technology developed jointly with Liebherr-Aerospace and Airbus the design and technological process chain for the implementation in the aviation industry. The project was funded by Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

Resources and environmental friendly lightweight technology

The applied technology of “selective laser melting” produced the valve block out of very fine layers of titanium powder. This allows for the realization of highly complex geometrical shapes, significantly contributing to the reduction of mass. Furthermore, unused powder material of the production process can be reused: ”With this technology we significantly contribute to the conservation of resources. Not only in the production process itself but also in the flight operation due to a reduced fuel consumption”, evaluates Prof. Kroll. Kroll is the speaker of the Federal Cluster of Excellence MERGE and Chair of the Professorship Lightweight Structures and Polymer Technology at the Chemnitz University of Technology. “Due to high safety standards hydraulic components are installed with multiple redundancy, thus offering great potential for weight reduction”, explains Kroll.

The research team headed by Frank Schubert, research associate at the Professorship of Lightweight Structures and Polymer Technology, developed jointly with Airbus and Liebherr-Aerospace completely new design principles for the utilized 3D print technology. The work of the researchers formed the basis making it possible for these components to withstand enormous stresses during the life cycle of the aircraft. “Especially the fatigue performance of the additive manufactured material differs considerably from conventionally forged material. Thus, we efficiently used the design benefits of the new technology to optimize failure critical areas. The lightweight potential of 3D printing is yet not fully exploited by a realized mass reduction of 35%”, says Frank Schubert. 

Fundamental research in the Federal Cluster of Excellence MERGE

Basis of this success were relevant preliminary works of the Federal Cluster of Excellence at the Chemnitz University of Technology that were now further developed in the aerospace research project funded by the BMWi. “We hope to gain valuable information from the current operational and field tests to clarify final structural questions aiming for the still overdue breakthrough of 3D print technology in aerospace. The cross-system utilization of technologies allows the further production of complex parts with a sharp weight reduction. Thus, we can reduce the fuel consumption and the Co2 emissions markedly contributing to the protection of the environment”, assesses MERGE speaker Kroll.

Background information: Federal Cluster of Excellence MERGE

In this nationwide unique project approx. 100 researchers and technicians work on the technology fusion of multifunctional lightweight structures since 2012. Main aim is the merging of currently separated production processes during the processing of different material groups such as textiles, plastics, and metal and to equip them with sensor and actuator technology. This would lead to a more cost- and energy-efficient large-scale production of multicomponent parts. Within the Federal Cluster of Excellence numerous small and medium-size businesses are involved, complementarily reflecting the value chain “Vom Werkstoff zur Leichtbaustruktur”. The project results of the Cluster supply the leading markets of automobile industry, aerospace, mechanical engineering, and microsystems technology.

Homepage of the Federal Cluster of Excellence MERGE:

Further information are available from Prof. Lothar Kroll, phone +49 371 531 23120, email and Jürgen Tröltzsch, MERGE Scientific Director, phone +49 371 531 35665, email

Matthias Fejes

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