PERFECT-3D might not appear to be an acronym, but it is, standing for Process Enabled Repeatability For Extended Life & Consistent Tools. PERFECT-3D’s process for 3D printing of ceramics for complex components resulted from the collaboration of its parent company, Renaissance Services Inc. (Fairborn, OH), with the US Department of Defense, a major investment casting company, a large chemical company, and an aircraft engine manufacturer.
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Renaissance Services, Inc. of Fairborn, OH recently received a $2.9M Air Force contract to support production of gearboxes and housings for out-of-production aircraft and engines. The contract, from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, located at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH combines 3D printing with structural castings to significantly reduce the time and cost to produce critical components for Air Force legacy systems. Renaissance was selected for the program to apply its proven capability in the 3D printing of ceramic tooling for sophisticated aerospace castings.
The RECHARGE program, short for Rapid Engineered Castings: Housing for Aircraft & Reliable Gearboxes for Engines, was awarded as an Air Force Rapid Innovation Fund effort to transition promising leading-edge technologies to production.
Renaissance co-founder and RECHARGE Program Manager, Robert Morris describes the need for the program: “The Air Force has a long list of critical parts for aircraft and engines that have not been produced for years. It’s not uncommon for production sources to be unknown, tooling to be nonexistent, and essential technical data to be very limited. Many of these parts start as castings. These parts can cost upwards of $50,000 each and have lead times of more than a year. By applying our 3D printing capability to produce ceramic molds, we can then work with the foundry to produce a casting to significantly reduce the lead time and address the need.”
Morris notes that the Renaissance approach feeds data directly from CAD models into its 3D printing equipment to generate the ceramic molds in a week or less. The molds are then shipped to a foundry to be used for production of castings. Renaissance and the Precision Castparts (PCC) Structurals foundry in Tilton, NH recently went from ceramic mold generation to finished casting for an Air Force engine gearbox in less than 30 days. According to Morris, this represents a lead time improvement of 90% or more when compared to the current methods for producing similar castings.
In addition to its relationship with PCC Structurals, Renaissance has enlisted the expertise of other foundries across the country as members of the RECHARGE team. Each foundry brings an important capability to the effort, including the ability to work with a wide range of materials such as aluminum, magnesium, and nickel-based alloys. An important program objective is to have a production-ready network of foundries that can rapidly respond to the needs of the Air Force.
Renaissance’s PERFECT-3D Division produces the 3D printed ceramic mold components at its fully integrated facility in Fairborn. Over the course of the RECHARGE program Renaissance and its partners will produce gearboxes and housings that meet the requirements for use on Air Force systems. A production-ready network will be ready to provide complex components rapidly and affordably. As Morris states, “It’s going to be an interesting couple of years as we prove that legacy systems don’t have to stand at the back of the line to have their critical needs met.”
For more information about PERFECT-3D contact:
Renaissance Services, Inc. has established a division that specializes in 3D printing. The new group, known as the PERFECT-3D Division, performs a variety of 3D printing, using a range of materials, but specializes in printing of ceramic components, primarily for the investment casting industry.
Renaissance co-founder Robert Morris describes the need for the PERFECT-3D Division: “We have been printing ceramics for nearly five years and it was time to raise the status of this activity within our company and give it the emphasis it deserves. Earlier this year we moved the operation from Cleveland to Fairborn, where we have established a fully integrated operation that can go from raw material to finished component.”
PERFECT-3D produces ceramic process aids in the form of cores, molds, and filters for use by foundries that produce investment castings for application across the aerospace and defense sector, including aircraft, engines, and support equipment. One area of particular interest is castings for “legacy” military systems; specifically those that were designed between the 1950s and 1990s that no longer have readily available sources for the castings used to produce key components such as gearboxes and housings.
Morris notes that Renaissance and PERFECT-3D have received a number of contracts from various military agencies to pursue ways to reduce the cost and lead time for these products. “For many of these castings there is scant technical data and the tooling no longer exists. New tooling typically costs six-figures and takes months to produce. We pursue a concept of ‘CAD as tooling’ to produce a ceramic mold using our own patent pending process. We then work with the foundry to produce a casting just like the original, filling a critical cost and lead time gap. We recently used our capability, working with a production foundry, to go from CAD model to a finished legacy engine gearbox casting in 26 days. This is a marked contrast from the two year lead times that we regularly hear about from the military sustainment community.”
PERFECT-3D Director of Operations Rick Pressley has been in the 3D printing industry since its infancy, including serving as manager of the 3D printing operation for a major jet engine producer. Pressley is quick to point out the difference between printing standard resins and ceramics: “With standard resins, we produce what is essentially a finished part, with limited post-processing. Ceramics are a whole different animal—less forgiving, with extensive post-processing, including sintering of the ceramic to achieve the final part. It’s a challenge, but we have demonstrated the ability to produce molds that make castings from various materials, including nickel-based alloys and aluminum. And we can cut the lead time for a mold from months to days.”
PERFECT-3D has enlisted the expertise of chemistry industry leader BASF and foundries across the country. Each foundry brings an important capability to the effort, including the ability to work with a wide range of materials such as aluminum, magnesium, and nickel-based alloys.
PERFECT-3D produces the components on the equipment at its facility in Fairborn, which has been expanded since the move from Cleveland. “We use materials from BASF and Prodways ProMaker L5000 3D printing machines to generate the ceramic molds,” Morris notes. “We purchased ProMaker L5000 serial number one from Prodways three years ago and have had a very successful relationship. In looking at equipment options for printing ceramics, we found the Prodways equipment to be the best value, offering leading edge technical capability and durability.”
Morris cites that BASF is a key partner: “BASF is our exclusive source for the photopolymer resins that are combined with ceramic material to enable our 3D printing of ceramic components. BASF has supported us with R&D resources, materials, and expertise to continually find better solutions and grow our capability.”
Morris says that the PERFECT-3D Division represents a commitment by Renaissance to its current and prospective customers. “We want the industry to know that we are in this for the long haul and that the PERFECT-3D Division offers a one-stop-shop that is singularly focused on 3D printed cores, molds, and filters.”
For more information about PERFECT-3D contact:
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