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Ceramic Additive Manufacturing for Production of Complex Castings

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Conference Abstract: Metal AM is generally being applied for bill of material parts from various metal alloys such as steel and aluminum. However, this approach does not readily lend itself to many aerospace parts because of time/cost to qualify AM-produced parts to replace legacy castings, or the need to create new parts from higher performance alloys. Nevertheless, AM is still applicable for production of castings through the generation of tooling—ceramic molds and cores—for legacy castings and new casting designs.

For legacy parts, the military sustainment community depends on out-of-production parts that are still critical to weapon systems. The US Air Force (USAF) and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) manage parts derived from castings which no longer have sources of supply. Limited quantity requirements prevent prospective suppliers from making high-cost non-recurring investments. Meanwhile, the AM-generated ceramic tooling has reduced by up to 80% the six-figure non-recurring tooling cost and lead times of two years or more. USAF and DLA contracts for legacy castings produced from AM-generated tooling include parts for B-52, A-10, F-22, F-15, and F-16 aircraft.

For new parts, changes drive tooling cost and ultimately, casting costs. With AM-generated ceramic tooling, changes are accommodated rapidly and cost effectively; changes to CAD models and AM programs enable nearly real-time revision, production, and testing of designs. Many of the emerging Air Force engines for drones use AM-generated tooling to cast components, saving time and money as well as seamlessly addressing multiple design iterations.

Renaissance Services applies AM-generated tooling for USAF and DLA legacy parts, as well as new designs for turbine engines. Renaissance is prime contractor on an America Makes AM technology program for legacy and new castings. This Renaissance presentation offers an overview of AM-generated tooling across the full spectrum of legacy and new designs.