Research into 3D-printed metal aircraft parts

The Fraunhofer Project Center at the University of Twente has joined forces with the Almelo-based company Aeronamic to conduct research into 3D-printed metal parts for the aviation industry.

The Province of Overijssel is providing financial support, Eddy van Hijum of the Provincial Executive announced during a working visit to Aeronamic. ‘Overijssel will contribute a maximum of €1 million to this ambitious R&D project, which will cost a total of €3 million over four years,’ explained Van Hijum, Provincial Executive member for Economic Affairs. ‘The funding is being provided through the province’s Technology Base Twente project that focuses, among other things, on strengthening the international competitive position of the region’s high-tech and manufacturing industries and knowledge institutions. It also offers opportunities for suppliers and technical education programmes.’

‘We launched our Project Center in January to boost the application of state-of-the-art R&D knowledge and expertise in the industry,’ Timo Meinders, managing director a.i. at the Fraunhofer Project Center at the University of Twente continues. ‘This challenging project harmonises perfectly with the objectives of FPC@UT and testifies to our strong competitive position in the field of smart production technology.’

A permanent search

‘The global aviation industry is permanently searching for new production technology for the manufacture of complex components,’ CEO Steffen de Vries of Aeronamic explains. ‘Encouraged by customers such as Honeywell and United Technologies, our company is investing strongly in this technology too. If Aeronamic can find more innovative ways to manufacture precision components, this will provide enormous opportunities both for ourselves and for other companies who currently rely on expensive cast semi-finished products. You could call it a form of reshoring through industrial innovation.’

Technology Base Twente

The aviation industry is known for its strict quality standards. ‘We are convinced that the experience we gain in 3D metal printing during this project will also be useful for the development of complex metal components for other industries. Many companies in Twente supply such products. We are cooperating with the researchers of the Fraunhofer Project Center so that the knowledge we generate can be shared with other companies and industries. We will eventually install the experimental setup at the Technology Base,’ says De Vries.

Joint Strike Fighter

Aeronamic was one of a number of Dutch companies to acquire contracts to produce systems and components for the Joint Strike Fighter, the latest generation of fighter aircraft. Aeronamic is producing the starter motor for this fighter plane.

‘The government recently announced that the logistics centre for these systems and components will also be established in the Netherlands, which is good news for the maintenance contract that we have acquired for the auxiliary engine,’ continues Van Hijum. ‘This will result in long-term maintenance and supply contracts, and so more employment opportunities with this beautiful high-tech company. It’s what Almelo and Twente are good at!’