European Space Agency awards contract to Siemens and Sonaca for development of design for additive manufacturing applications

The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Siemens Digital Industries Software to develop aerospace design applications for metal additive manufacturing. The applications will leverage Siemens’ end-to-end software solution for industrial additive manufacturing that combines generative engineering, topology optimisation, predictive analytics, process simulation, build preparation and production execution. The two-year long project, named Design4AM, is built on a strong collaboration between Siemens and Sonaca, a specialist in aerospace structures, with financial support from ESA and the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (Belspo). The Design4AM project will result in a validated process for using Siemens’ comprehensive additive manufacturing software to design and produce highly optimised, light-weighted structural parts for space applications, such as, among others, fittings (structurally bonded to CFRP panel), supports, and bipods for improved performance and cost. 

“The Siemens and Sonaca partnership combines the power of a leading additive manufacturing software solution with the expertise from a leading aerospace manufacturer,” said Pedro Romero Fernandez, Sonaca general manager Space BU. “With our deep aerospace knowledge and Siemens’ software technologies such as generative design, automated topology optimisation and additive manufacturing process simulation, engineers will be able to explore hundreds of design options in a fraction of the normal time, then virtually test them against a variety of physical conditions to arrive at the best design solution for their performance requirements that 3D print correctly the first time.”

Additive manufacturing (AM) is an important tool for the space industry because it can meet structural and multi-disciplinary requirements for space applications at a much lower weight than conventional space structures made through traditional manufacturing methods. Weight is a particularly critical concern for space applications; according to industry reports, one pound of payload equates to $10,000 in launch costs. Additive manufacturing techniques can be used to lightweight nearly any kind of complex structure in launchers, propulsion, satellites and various spacecraft components.

Design4AM will leverage the Siemens Digital Innovation Platform with the support of Sonaca’s experience in space applications, manufacturing features, material and process, testing and numerical methods for the validation of the chain. Siemens’ NX software and Simcenter software enable engineers to explore a wide range of design concepts in an automated closed-loop process that takes into consideration engineering performance, manufacturing process and operation cost requirements. These tools can account for manufacturing constraints such as thermo-mechanical part distortion, the structural part orientation in the building chamber or the design of supporting structures. The integrated software environment can shorten the part conceptual design and optimisation process, helping enable higher performance structures to be manufactured.

“Additive manufacturing can help ESA reshape everything for optimal performance at reduced cost, in comparison to traditional manufacturing methods that require multiple steps, tools, and treatments to achieve the desired outcome,” said Didier Granville, RTD projects manager for Siemens in Liège. “Working with Sonaca, we will be able to help ESA take advantage of additive manufacturing to deliver high-performance structures capable of withstanding the extreme forces that occur during space satellite launches.”

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