This pie-shaped component is part of the hatch cover assembly for NASA’s Orion spacecraft. It was 3D printed using Stratasys® Antero™ 840CN03, a PEKK-based thermoplastic with low outgassing and consistent electrostatic dissipative (ESD) properties. (PRNewsfoto/Hexagon Metrology Services LTD)

The technology is said to unlock the light-weighting potential of 3D-printed PEKK parts

November 16, 2022

COBHAM, England—Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division teamed up with Stratasys recently to demonstrate how Hexagon’s simulation tools can help aerospace engineers realize the light-weighting potential of 3D-printed polyether ketone-ketone (PEKK) material.

The companies applied the simulation technology to capture the behavior of Stratasys’s Antero™ reinforced polyether ketone-ketone (PEKK) materials and its additive manufacturing processes. The simulations, reported to be rigorously validated, offer Stratasys customers insights to help them produce lighter weight components and quicken their timelines for bringing new sustainable aircraft and spacecraft to market, Hexagon said in a release.

Hexagon said rigorously-validated multi-scale models of two new high-performance, aerospace-approved materials — Stratasys Antero 840CN03 and Antero 800NA — have been added to its Digimat materials exchange ecosystem, with associated print process parameters from Stratasys’s aerospace-ready 3D printers.

Using these detailed proprietary models, engineers can create digital twins that accurately predict how parts that are printed with the chosen material and the approved, aerospace-ready Stratasys printer will perform in a digital reality—with real-world use cases and certification tests—before any physical prototypes are manufactured.

”As the aerospace industry continues to push for more sustainable designs, unlocking the light-weighting potential of thermoplastics and 3D printing will be key,” said Aziz Tahiri, vice president of global aerospace and defense for Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division, in the release. “By leveraging the power of our simulation technology, manufacturers gain access to proprietary information so their engineers can ‘work the problem’ with reliable information.”

The use of 3D-printed plastic parts is said to offer aerospace customers transformative light-weighting, reducing energy use and increasing the range of new aircraft. When the material and processes are fully exploited by product designers, they may also reduce costs resulting from overengineering, plus the waste and lead-times of traditional manufacturing, the company said in the release.

However, adoption of plastics and additive methods for structural components has remained slow due to the industry’s safety-critical nature and regulations, according to Hexagon. But designers can apply these breakthroughs today if engineering teams use simulation tools to validate that the materials will achieve the required part performance when manufactured, Hexagon said.

Developed to be open, Digimat software gives manufacturers the ability to design lighter parts that can match metals in performance and avoid costly overengineering using their preferred finite element analysis (FEA) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools. Companies that use Digimat in conjunction with Hexagon’s MSC Nastran and MSC Apex will accelerate the certification and documentation of their work, the company said.

The Antero materials are currently being used at the cutting edge of aerospace engineering, according to the release. Lockheed Martin, for example, chose Antero 840CN03 to create NASA’s Orion spacecraft docking hatch cover. By making rigorous digital engineering and virtual manufacturing possible, the new simulation tools will enable more product development teams to apply and de-risk Stratasys’s aerospace additive manufacturing offerings, according to the release.

”The Antero 840CN03 and Antero 800NA thermoplastics provide unprecedented strength, heat, and chemical resistance,” said Foster Ferguson, aerospace business segment leader, Stratasys, in the release. “When combined with Hexagon’s simulation insights and actionable data, these 3D printed materials’ ability to replace certain applications of aluminum and steel clearly points to growing use in the aerospace industry. We believe they meet manufacturers’ increasingly complex performance needs, and by combining innovative modeling software with 3D printing, can reduce production timelines from months to days.”

The partnership between Stratasys and Hexagon has spanned more than a decade. Through the partnership, several high-performance thermoplastic materials—including Ultem™ 9085, Ultem 9085 CG, Ultem™ 1010, and Nylon12CF—have been characterized and added to Hexagon’s Digimat material modeling software.

“We’re excited to see how this next chapter with Stratasys will help the industry create lighter, stronger designs in any design engineering tool with more confidence and less cost and help bring next-gen aircraft to market faster,” Tahiri said.

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!