Surface technology for additively manufactured components made from plastic for aerospace applications

Metallized structural component made from PEEK.
© Fraunhofer IST, Falko Oldenburg
Metallized structural component made from PEEK.

Challenge

The initial situation was that in aerospace applications, many structural components are made a) from metal and b) subtractively (by turning, milling) for reasons of strength. This makes them unnecessarily heavy and increases payload costs. The challenge was to develop a process for manufacturing significantly lighter components with the same performance capabilities. 

Solution

The solution to the challenge was to utilize polymers as well as additive processes in order to make the components considerably lighter. Polymers are inherently lighter than metals; furthermore, additive processes allow significant weight savings through optimization of the design. Through galvanic metallization of the plastic surface, the strength was further increased; in addition, the required electrical conductivity (prevention of electrostatic charging) was ensured.

Added value

The process developed for the aerospace industry can be smoothly transferred to other business areas, particularly where high-quality individual parts or small series are required. For example, molding tools with complex shapes can be produced much more easily from polymers and can also be provided with wear-resistant surfaces (metallization). Similarly, considerable savings and improvements can be achieved in medical technology through the combination of these processes.

Funding reference

(formerly Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy)
© BMWK
(formerly Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy)

 

Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economy and Energy (BMWi) with the Funding No. 50RP1730.

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