Large titanium wing spar made by Additive Manufacturing

December 2, 2013

The Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, is one of China’s leading research oriented universities of science and technology. The Solidification Processing Laboratory at NPU has been focusing on aeronautics, astronautics and marine technology and has been involved in laser additive manufacturing (LAM) since 1995.

The laboratory has built two LAM machines using CO2 and YAG lasers of several kilowatt beam power to process advanced materials such as superalloys, stainless steels and titanium alloys. The oxygen content of the argon filled in the LAM chamber can be measured and strictly controlled.


A large laser Additive Manufacturing machine at Northwestern Polytechnical University in China’s Shaanxi province


A wing spar produced at NPU by Additive

Manufacturing for China’s Comac C-919 aircraft

The LAM technology developed at NPU has found its way into the Comac C-919, China’s first domestically-designed commercial aircraft which is going into series production in 2014 and into commercial service in 2016. The LAM part is a central wing spar made from titanium alloy and is reported to be three metres long. Its mechanical properties meet the standards for forged parts.

The laser additive manufacturing technology is said to provide significant advantages over traditional manufacturing methods. “The modern aerospace industry has stringent requirements, so complex additive manufacturing processes must be developed to ensure that products can achieve the robust performance levels previously established by traditional manufacturing methods,” stated Huang Weidong, director of the Solidification Processing Lab at NPU.

LAM technology is also reported to have found applications in China’s fighter aircraft J-15 and J-16 jets, the J-20 stealth fighter and the next-generation J-31 fighter. Earlier this year at the 16th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo, China’s AVIC Heavy Machinery Co received the state technological invention award for the world’s largest LAM titanium part for military aircraft.


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