The US company Honeywell International has been investing in metal additive manufacturing solutions for a number of years now, with the objective of producing aircraft components for its Honeywell Aerospace division. It has therefore designed hundreds of lightweight, high-performance and complex parts and has just received the very first certification from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) for a 3D-printed critical engine part. It can therefore be used in aircraft during flight.
The part in question is an important structural component of the ATF3-6 turbojet engine, namely bearing housing #4/5. Designed and certified in the 1960s, this engine is currently fitted to the maritime patrol aircraft of Dassault Aviation, the Falcon Guardian 20G. A dozen engines are still in service, posing certain challenges as far as maintenance is concerned: the cost of replacing a defective part is high given the low order volume. Additive manufacturing offers an on-demand solution without any need to produce a mold in advance.
Certain engine parts are considered to be flight critical by the FAA and must at all times be able to function at 100%. This applies to the bearing housing. Passenger safety is threatened if any fault is detected. The FAA must therefore examine its production process very closely and approve the part before it can be used in an aircraft. With its form having already been certified by the FAA, Honeywell did not have to change it and put the whole engine back through the certification process.
The US company, therefore, worked in close collaboration with the FAA on the development and certification of multiple 3D-printed components. The bearing housing is the first part to be certified, the first of many. Jon Hobgood, Vice President of Engineering & Production at Honeywell Aerospace concludes:
“It is an important step for Honeywell as it demonstrates the maturity of our additive manufacturing operations and opens up the path for us to print a larger number of certified and critical flight parts in the future. It is also a major victory for the 3D printing industry, as critical flight parts are subjected to meticulous examination and high standards of certification and installation for aircraft, but this shows that it is possible.”
The housing is currently being produced with several dozen parts to be ready by the end of the year. It is a fine example perfectly demonstrating the importance of additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you also have projects in this sector!