New study looks at the potential of direct metal laser sintering technology to generate energy and raw material savings

August 24, 2011

EOS Electro Optical Systems GmbH, a manufacturer of laser-sintering systems, in collaboration with EADS Group’s research and technology production facility, EADS Innovation Works, has begun a study to understand the potential of the direct metal laser-sintering process to generate savings in the use of energy and raw materials.

EOS report on how they believe this will help to develop a new range of manufacturing technologies that will integrate sustainability-relevant features into products and product manufacturing.

By capitalising on the advantages that direct metal laser-sintering (DMLS) offers, including the benefits of net shape technology to generate lighter structures as well as more economical use of raw materials, the technology has a huge potential to contribute to sustainable development in manufacturing.


Fig. 1 Aerospace Part: The DMLS combustion chamber

demonstrates a thin walled large part with a complex

design built as ‘one piece’ with integrated perforations

and holes. The overhanging top is built without

supports.  Material: EOS NickelAlloy IN718. Build

time: 108 hours. (courtesy Material Solutions/EOS) 

A previous study conducted by EADS Innovation Works (IW) showed that although the use of energy during the manufacturing phase could not compare with conventional manufacturing processes, energy consumption dropped significantly during the in-service phase of aircraft components. Indeed, DMLS technology unlocks structural optimisation, leading to weight reduction of the components and thus to a lowering of fuel and carbon dioxide emissions.

In parallel, EOS carried out a product carbon footprint calculation of one kilogram of sintered material.  The findings supported EADS IW’s research, as they showed that the greatest impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumption was to be found during the in-service phase of laser-sintered components. It further identified the most important drivers of energy consumption along the B2B value chain, particularly around the supply of raw materials and the use of cooling systems. 


Fig. 2 Helicopter stator ring prototype for helicopter

gas-turbine engine components capable of running

in test-bed conditions (courtesy Morris


It was while comparing data that EADS IW and EOS agreed to carry out a collaborative environmental study.

Technologies applied to aerospace normally have to go through a nine-step process called TRL (Technology Readiness Level) before a technology proceeds through qualification. For each TRL review, the evolution in maturity of a technology is measured in terms of performance, engineering, manufacturing, operational readiness, value and risk, and sustainability/environment. The latter is a new criterion linked to EADS Group’s eco-efficiency vision and a joint study focusing on this criterion made perfect sense.

Following the original study, EADS IW and EOS will now complete a full life cycle assessment covering energy consumption, material use, carbon dioxide emissions and use of hazardous material, benchmarking an optimised design for use with EOS’ next generation platform, the EOSINT M 280 metal system (Fig. 3). Results should show improvements in the sustainable performances not only of the component but also its manufacture.


Fig. 3 The study will use the EOSINT M280 metal system in its evaluation of the technology 

Adrian Keppler, Manager Strategy and Business Development at EOS stresses, “There is a consensus within society that companies have to address and meet their responsibility for our environment and natural resources. As such, sustainability is one of the pillars of the EOS strategy.”

“Our technology can help to improve environmental performance at customers such as EADS IW through freedom of new designs and innovation as well as reduced energy and emissions. At the same time, DMLS enables lightweight designs, reduced material consumption and lower transportation emissions.”


Fig. 4 Topology optimised A380 bracket with

conventional A380 bracket behind. Produced at

EADS Innovation Works, Centre for Additive

Layer Manufacturing (CALM) at Filton, using

the laser chamber and stainless steel (17-4ph)

powder. This particular organic shape is a

topology optimization produced as a concept

to show the capabilities of the technology. It

is not a structural optimization based on stress

and FE analysis 

Cyrille Peignot, Sustainability Engineer at EADS IW, adds, “We shape the future of aerospace as a company, but in order to meet our responsibilities, we have to tackle current challenges such as access and availability of resources, as well as aircraft emissions.

“EOS is one of our suppliers in the additive layer manufacturing (ALM) arena and its technology allows us to identify potential for internal savings. When combined with topology optimisation, ALM can deliver weight reduction and, consequently, reduced fuel consumption, but more importantly economise on the use of raw materials, frequently a significant cost to manufacturers.

“So far we have been able to redesign a part during the study process that meets our objectives, namely the use of fewer resources during the manufacturing process while producing almost no waste; and a significant decrease in the energy bill. All of these are key factors to improve sustainability of an aircraft’s performance and manufacture.”

The joint study by EOS and EADS IW will continue throughout the rest of the year and further, more detailed results will be made available towards the end of 2011.  

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August 24, 2011

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