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GKN Aerospace has entered a strategic partnership with additive manufacturing specialist, Arcam AB, to develop and industrialise one of the most promising of the new ‘additive’ processes to meet the needs of the expanding future aerospace market.

The joint technology development (JTD) partnership is focused on developing electron beam melting (EBM), a process in which metal components are built up, layer-by-layer, using a metal powder that is melted by a powerful electron beam. EBM is able to produce very precise, complex, small to medium-sized components that require very little finishing.

As part of this agreement, GKN Aerospace has ordered two ARCAM Q20 EBM machines to be installed at GKN Aerospace’s Bristol, UK additive manufacturing (AM) centre. GKN Aerospace and ARCAM engineers will then work together to create the next generation of EBM equipment, able to manufacture complex titanium structures at the high volumes required to meet future demand.

Russ Dunn, Senior Vice President Engineering & Technology, GKN Aerospace explains: “We have been working with Arcam for some time exploring what we believe to be one of the most promising of the additive processes. Our aim has been to fully understand how EBM can be applied to our future aerostructures and aero engines portfolio. Through this new strategic partnership with ARCAM our combined additive manufacturing teams will now take the next steps towards fully industrialising this AM technology.”

He adds: “We believe the array of processes that fall under the ‘additive’ umbrella will revolutionise manufacturing across every industrial sector - particularly in aerospace where cost, weight and performance are critical.  Drawing on GKN Powder Metallurgy’s experience and our own extensive aerospace expertise we aim to develop a roadmap that will industrialise additive manufacturing for this sector.”

Magnus René, CEO, Arcam comments:  “We are now very happy to announce this order and important partnership with GKN Aerospace.  We are convinced that the close collaboration with GKN Aerospace will be key for further industrialization of our EBM technology in the aerospace industry”

The agreement forms part of the GKN group’s major AM research and development initiative.  Within the GKN Aerospace business, four dedicated global AM development centres have been established in North America and Europe each clearly focused on progressing specific additive processes and technologies.

Additive processes have huge potential for the future aerospace sector where there is a growing demand for more, and more efficient, aircraft.  In the coming years the industry  will need to  manufacture at greater speeds and with total consistency - producing components that are lighter and more cost-effective, and that generate less waste during manufacture and lower emissions in operation.

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