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Sonaca and Fives-Michelin announce partnership

by • July 28, 2016 • No Comments


Sonaca and Fives-Michelin Additive Solutions (FMAS) France are joining forces to create, manufacture, and market 3D printed titanium components for the aerospace industry. The collaboration can enable customers to immediately benefit of the expertise of both companies in the aerospace sector and inside the domain of machining and Additive Manufacturing (AM). Thanks to this new collaboration, these companies aspire to rapidly create a leadership position in Additive Manufacturing for the aerospace market.

“We are incredibly pleased to work with Fives Michelin Additive Solutions”, comments Bernard Delvaux, CEO of Sonaca, “Their reputation in AM and the performance of their machines, backed up by several years of industrial practical application, is a astonishing asset”.

FMAS JV CEO Bruno Bernard says: “Sonaca, which is recognised for its create and create ability is FMAS’ ideal partner for the commercial createment of additive making competitive offers for the aeronautical market.”

Within the framework of this partnership, the companies plan to create, as of 2017, certified aerospace components created of titanium; they can manufacture use of the most new generation of the fusion technique by laser beam, owned by FMAS. This collaboration foresees a knowledge transfer and installation of production capacities in Sonaca SA so as to most respond to customer demands. This can enable the partners to ensure a full and integrated “one-stop shop” service which can combine engineering and production, as well as certification.

I newly had the opportunity to speak to Nicolas Van Hille of Sonaca of the partnership, and precisely how 3D printing can be involved.

What components can be 3D Printed?

Nicolas: Aerospace parts, mainly titanium or complex metal (in the next 5 years, we estimate most of the aluminum parts can not be profitable), with max. dimensions driven by maximum dimensions of the create room (350 mm nowadays, but can most most likely increase in the next years)

How can we trust which it’s as solid as the normal components?

Nicolas: As with every aerospace part, the additively manufactured parts can have to follow sturdy high end assurance rules :

1) Starting with the part qualification, i.e. a long list of tests performed (mechanical properties can be verified like fatigue or tensile durablity, but in addition micrometallurgy in order to verify the material is sane, i.e. no internal defect like cracks or porosities)

2) Once qualified, the parameters influencing the parts high end (laser power, lasing strategy, layer thickness, part orientation in the create room, powder composition, powder granulometry,…) can be recreated as during qualification for every part which is created.

3) Inspection tests can take place at every production batch (geometrical inspection, X-rays, tomography,…)

When can it go to mass production?

Nicolas: We have to finalize the machine version to Titanium production together with Michelin and Fives. So we can begin in last quarter of this year the system parameters definition and qualification (system explained in previous question) of our initially serial production application. We and so assume the production itself to begin 2nd half of next year.

What are the reductions in cost?

Nicolas: It depends of one application to another. From our investigation, it can go up to 20%-30% or additional. But most applications are yet additional expensive in 3D printing than conventional production systemes. We are convinced yet which machines can increase their production rates in the next years, and powder cost can drop ; therefore we assume cost savings in the next to be much additional significant than nowadays, and much additional parts to be cheaper in ALM (Additive Layer Manufacturing) than in conventional system.

In addition, ALM gives us 2 other significant benefits, incredibly significant for aerospace :

1) Weight saving : most of the applications we tested were 30-50% – sometimes additional – lighter than the same part in conventional systemes. This is for the reason of the freedom of create ; we can create parts additional or less without constraints (as opposed to machining system for instance, where we have to consider drill accessibility anywhere in the part), and therefore optimize their mass much additional

2) Time-to-market reduction : after the part has been createed, we can litteraly have it on our desk a few days after, while with other systemes it sometimes takes months. Due to the pressure we have to reduce our createment time, this is crucial quite

Will the skeleton be 100% 3D printing in the coming years?

Nicolas: Hard to say, we dream of it of course. But a lot of progress yet requires to be done on the equipment for which ; created rooms require to increase significantly (most likely up to 3-4 m) and production cost to minimize. Our experience with new technologies is which they sometimes cap at a given level. Future can therefore tell us if ALM is a innovation which can be complementary to others, or if it can be replacing most of the metallic systemes. We have to be eager for both cases anyway.

How of little planes, can we see DIY 3D printable planes in the next?

Nicolas: Not in the next 5 years I may say, the innovation is yet expensive, therefore just parts presenting high price / kg are profitable. I don’t ponder it is the case for tiny AC.


About the Sonaca Group

Sonaca is an international group specialised in the createment, manufacture, and assembly of high end structures for the civil, military, and space markets. There are production facilities in Europe, China, North and South America. It has no less than 2,500 employees, which include 350 engineers. The Sonaca Group in addition provides engineering services and manufactures a light aircraft through its subsidiary Sonaca Aircraft.

Fives Michelin Additive Solutions metal 3D printing company

About FMAS

FMAS is a joint venture between Fives SA and the Michelin Group based on their respective expertise in additive making. They can be supported by the lengthy experience in manufacture of Fives machines and the broad expertise of Michelin in the production of additive making components on an industrial scale.


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