Laser-assisted manufacturing of aircraft parts

Minden, Neb. – Royal Plastic Mfg. Inc. designs and manufactures advanced composites, primarily in high-performance aircraft, defense, and microwave applications. The company, founded in 1949, employs over 95 people, 12 in engineering and product development.

The company recently purchased an EOSINT P 800 system from EOS (Kraaling, Germany), a manufacturer of laser-sintering systems, which was the first sale of this model in North America. Royal will use the P 800 to manufacture high-performance thermoplastic products.

Royal acquired this unit as part of an ongoing project funded by the U.S. Air Force and Navy. The company has worked closely with two of the largest air defense contractors on the project and is adding to existing military guidelines for laser sintering by developing specifications for PEEK HP3. Aircraft parts manufactured with the thermoplastic will include ducts for cooling and heating avionics, and clips and brackets for attaching fuel systems or wiring.

EOS PEEK HP3 is a high-performance polymer that is widely known for its outstanding material properties, including flame and temperature resistance, chemical resistance, high tensile strength, light weight, biocompatibility, and sterilizability – properties that make it attractive for aerospace, medical, automotive, and industrial applications. PEEK HP3 from EOS is the only PEEK-type polymer available for laser sintering.

Royal can sinter high temperature thermoplastics using the selective laser sintering (SLS) process on its EOS P800 platform. The company is also working to optimize the SLS process and develop a PEEK material in cooperation with the Navy, Air Force, and various OEMs.

The SLS processes use powdered material spread into fine layers that are subjected to a laser beam that traces the part section taken from CAD data. After the layer is sintered, it drops a fraction of a millimeter and a subsequent layer is then spread over the first. The process is iterated until all of the sections have been selectively sintered together. The chamber where the process takes place is maintained at a temperature just below the melting point of the powder so the laser energy raises the temperature by only a few degrees.

As the part is continually lowered while the process continues, it ultimately rests in a bed of loose power when finished. After it is removed, the excess powder is simply brushed away and final manual finishing can be carried out.

“Laser-sintered EOS PEEK HP3 components have outstanding heat- and corrosion-resistant properties that make them ideal for aerospace,” says Bob Evans, area sales manager, Central Region at EOS of North America. “The P 800 purchase is just one more example of how Royal explores and advances new technologies with, and on behalf of, its customers.”

For more information contact Jarrod Ridge at Royal Plastic Mfg.: Jarrod@rpm-composites.com.

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