The project is the latest in a series of Airbus Research & Technology partnerships established under a 2006 agreement with the South African Department of Science & Technology.

Airbus, supported by EADS Innovation Works, will work with South African aerostructures manufacturer Aerosud and the CSIR’s National Laser Centre (NLC).  They will test and evaluate the use of additive layer manufacturing (ALM) to produce larger-scale titanium parts at high speed by using the NLC’s high-powered lasers.

If successful, the project could have significant cost and environmental efficiency ramifications for airlines, aircraft operators, the aerospace and other manufacturing industries.

As Hardus Greyling, project coordinator of project Aeroswift at the CSIR, explains: “ALM involves forming an object from powder, which is arranged in layers and fused by high-speed lasers. It is a process completely devoid of bulk machining, cutting and welding thereby minimising waste and optimising the manufacturing process.”

Aerosud and the CSIR NLC have been developing the innovative ALM approach under the Dept of Science & Technology-funded Aeroswift project. Initial proof-of-concept studies were carried out a few months ago and based on the results a decision was made to construct a full scale prototype system to demonstrate the technology. This technology will allow the production of large geometrically complex items, “typically focusing on parts which are prohibitively expensive or impossible to make using traditional methods,” said Paul Potgieter, managing director, Aerosud.

“There is no doubt that ALM is changing the small-scale component manufacturing landscape, and with Airbus joining the partnership it will be possible to test and evaluate the manufacturing process on large components for passenger jetliners," said Dale King, Airbus senior manager international research & technology projects.