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Potential and challenges of additive manufacturing for topology optimized spacecraft structures

: Willner, Robin; Lender, Stefan; Ihl, Andreas; Wilsnack, Christoph; Gruber, Samira; Brandão, Ana D.; Pambaguian, Laurent; Riede, Mirko; Lopez, Elena; Brückner, Frank; Leyens, Christoph


Journal of laser applications : JLA 32 (2020), No.3, Art. 032012, 23 pp.
ISSN: 1042-346X
ISSN: 1938-1387
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IWS ()
iterative methods; topology; nondestructive examination; mechanical properties; load testing; 3D printers; additives

This study focused on the potential of topology optimization (TO) for metallic tertiary structures of spacecrafts produced by the additive manufacturing (AM) technique laser powder bed fusion. First, a screening of existing conventionally manufactured products was carried out to evaluate the benefits of a redesign concerning product performance and the associated economic impact. As a result of the study, the most suitable demonstrator was selected. This reference structure was redesigned by TO taking into consideration the AM process constraints. Another major aim of this work was to evaluate the possibilities and challenges of AM (accuracies, surface quality, process parameters, postmachining, and mechanical properties) in addition to the redesign process. A comprehensive approach was implemented including detailed analysis of the powder, mechanical properties, in-process parameters, and nondestructive inspection (NDI). All measured values were used for a back loop to the design process, thereby providing a final robust redesign. Finally, the fine-tuned demonstrator was built up in an iterative process. The parts were tested under representative conditions for the application to verify the performance. The demonstrator qualification test campaign contained thermal cycling, vibration testing, static load testing, and NDI. Thus, an improvement in technology readiness level up to “near flight qualified” was reached.