GA-ASI’s 3D-printed steel layup tool is CNC-machined at Baker Industries. (Photo: PRNewswire)

Baker Industries, Lincoln Electric Additive Solutions are working with GA-ASI on the feasibility study

August 4, 2022

MACOMB, Mich.—A new research and development project will explore the feasibility of wire-arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) for producing steel layup tooling used in manufacturing composite lamination for the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.  (GA-ASI).

Baker Industries, a Lincoln Electric Company, and Lincoln Electric Additive Solutions (LEAS) reported they have entered a new strategic relationship with GA-ASI on the R&D project. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is a designer and manufacturer of certified Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems.

Baker Industries is a diversified supplier of tooling, prototyping, CNC machining, fabrication, and additive manufacturing to OEM and Tier 1 manufacturers in demanding industries. Lincoln Electric designs, develops, and manufactures arc welding products, automated joining, assembly and cutting systems, and plasma and oxy-fuel cutting equipment. The company also provides brazing and soldering alloys.

According to a release from Baker Industries, GA-ASI sought a solution for complex tooling that was repeatable, accurate, vacuum-tight, and rigid enough to withstand the stress and fatigue caused by repetitive autoclave cycles. After a collaborative review of several tool geometries and requirements, the companies’ engineering teams determined that wire-arc additive manufacturing could be the right solution.

“Our turnaround time can be significantly quicker than larger job shops, and we can usually ramp up production quickly to combat fluctuations in customer demand,” said Mike Wangelin, business development manager at Lincoln Electric Additive Solutions and Baker Industries, in the release.

Coupled with Baker’s post-processing, fabrication, and inspection capabilities, the ability of wire-arc additive manufacturing to quickly produce large, complex components using several materials could present a comprehensive solution to GA-ASI’s production tooling needs, Baker said in the release.

Although still in the process of qualification at GA-ASI, the process has reportedly demonstrated preliminary success toward reaching production-level use in GA-ASI’s manufacturing operations. Overall, GA-ASI is said to have realized savings of 30 percent to 40 percent in cost and 20 percent to 30 percent in lead time by using wire-arc additive manufacturing in place of traditional manufacturing processes for specific tool families and geometries.

In addition, the first tool produced has passed GA-ASI’s initial assessments. It is vacuum-tight, has a uniform thermal survey, and exceeds target GD&T requirements, according to the release.

Subscribe Now

Design-2-Part Magazine

Get the manufacturing industry news and features you need for free in a format you like.

FREE Print, Digital, or Both »

You have Successfully Subscribed!