GKN Aerospace Testimonial

Exotic Materials, Aerospace and the Bolt Pro

With the increasing need to design, build and test parts faster, we are seeing the massive advantage that additive manufacturing is having in the manufacturing space. One such field that 3D printing is having a massive impact is in Aerospace.

GKN Aerospace is a British aerospace company that has adopted 3D printing in its design process to help it achieve better workflows and improve its design processes.

It currently uses our professional 3D printer the Bolt Pro to allow its engineering teams to rapidly design and test out parts in-house while minimising the need to conduct such task using an external firm.

We spoke with a Systems Engineer at GKN to better understand their reasoning on adopting 3D printing in their product development process.

When did they start experimenting with 3D printing?

The 3D printing journey for GKN Aerospace in Norway started in 2016 with the intention to learn more about the newly emerging technology of 3D printing.

The main usage for their first printer was scale replicas of production parts. The replicas proved to be very useful in production meetings in addition to drawings and helped visualise product concepts easier.

In addition, they also printed a few functional components used in production. The printer they had at that time was printing mostly with PLA and that was not enough for the company.

Why did they pick Leapfrog 3D Printers

A Systems Engineer at GKN Aerospace Norway, already had experience with Leapfrog printers as he owned a Creatr 3D Printer, which is one of the first printers Leapfrog produced. Due to having had a really good experience with the printer, he recommended his company to purchase a Bolt Pro.

In 2018 they decided to buy the Bolt Pro 3D Printer. The main factors that lead to this decision were the enclosed build chamber to enable printing with Nylon and ABS, good build quality, and the dual extruders that can print two parts at the same time.

What are they using the printers for

The printer is used to print scale replicas of production parts, functional components for robot cells and prototyping of production tools.

One interesting use of the printer is in one of their automatic robot cells where one of the robot’s material feeder is 3D Printed. The same part ordered from metal would have been very expensive. In the same cell brackets, the laser holder, and a horn was 3D Printed.

Besides using the 3D printer for making prototypes and functional production parts, the IT-department also found a use for the printer for things that needed to be fixed in the company.

For example, they printed many brackets for their WIFI routers because their supplier stopped producing them but it was also cheaper and faster to just make them in-house.

What do you like about the Bolt Pro 3D Printer

What we like the most about the printer is:

  • Reasonable price
  • Large build volume
  • Enclosed build chamber
  • Good printing quality
  • Independent dual extruders
  • Printer sturdiness
  • Touch screen interface

The flexibility of the Bolt 3D Printer allowed them to work with different materials. The most promising filament GKN found is a filament called alloy 910. They are testing to print a part which is currently manufactured in metal with a cost price of nearly € 3000. If the 3D print succeeds to withstand the heat and is resistant enough, the new price for printing the part would be € 10. So far, the resistance of the material was proven, the only test left being the temperature one.

“We would absolutely recommend the printer to other companies that are manufacturers or that use tools in production that you cannot buy easily. Also, product development companies could benefit from this 3D Printer”.