China’s growth has been rapid in the past ten years, thanks to its manufacturing capabilities. 3D printing could play a major part of the world’s reliance on China, but the Chinese have recently shown that they have the capabilities to print the extraordinary.
During the 16th Chinese International High-Tech Expo that took place between May 21 and May 26, AVIC Laser showed off the worlds largest titanium 3D printed aircraft component. AVIC Laser is a subsidiary of AVIC Heavy Machinery and used 3D Laser Direct Manufacturing to make the component.
The Component in question was a large titanium 3D printed part for the use in China’s own J-20 or J-31 military stealth fighters. China has not only used AVIC’s 3D Laser Direct Manufacturing Technology for the J-20 and the J-31, but they have also used it for the J-15 carrier-borne fighter plane, C919 passenger aircraft, and Y-20 Strategic Airlifter craft. According to the chief designer for the J-15, AVIC’s Laser printing technology has been used “in major load-bearing parts, including the [J-15’s] front landing gear.”
AVIC claims that 3D printing complicated parts could reduce the cost of expensive titanium parts to 5 percent of the original value. This means that the US$4 million that it currently costs to create some of the complex titanium components could be reduced to around US$200,000. Overall cost of an aircraft could be reduced by as much as 90 percent and the 3D printing technology could also create a weight saving of nearly 50 percent.
AVIC LASER’s 3D molding technology could be worth more than 100 million yuan, according to the Ministry of Finance’s State-owned intellectual property valuation. The technology is also expected to win the national technology invention award, which represents the highest honor in the field of national technical achievements.
AVIC Laser is funded by the Chinese government and was created in the year 2000. Over the past 13 years AVIC has had to overcome numerous issues with the Laser 3D printing technology. They had to overcome issues such as the difficulty of building large structural parts, an inert gas protection system, defect control and metal lattice growth control.
China plans to use AVIC Laser’s technology in the commercial market as well as military fields. A Five meter long wing beam made from titanium was built by the Northwestern Polytechnical University of China. The wing beam will be used in China’s C919 commercial airliner that will begin flying in 2016.