BionicAircraft: CENIT develops solutions for greater resource efficiency in aviation

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CENIT is participating in the European research project “BionicAircraft”, which aims to boost resource efficiency in aviation by implementing additive manufacturing and bionic design in all phases of the aircraft lifecycle. Following a concept review, CENIT is currently beginning to implement its work package: A software toolset for automated bionic design.

September 2016 saw the launch of “BionicAircraft”, a research project co-funded by the European Commission’s “Horizon 2020” program. The project is aimed at reducing and controlling emissions in the aviation industry. IT specialist CENIT is one of 10 international consortium partners from various industry sectors as well as research and development organisations. They are working together to develop technologies and concepts for additive manufacturing that enable environment-friendly end2end lifecycles in the aviation industry.

Additive Manufacturing in all Phases of the Aircraft Lifecycle

One way of addressing these challenges is to introduce additive manufacturing (3D printing) technology in all phases of the aircraft lifecycle: This innovative manufacturing process permits the development of ultra-light structures, flexible production of highly complex components, resource-efficient supply chains, as well as optimised concepts for repair, spare part logistics, recycling and waste management. In addition, 3D printing technologies offer considerable weight-saving potentials for components and a significant reduction of material waste during production.

Software Toolset for Automated Bionic Design

Nine work packages were defined to achieve the goals of the research project. They address aspects such as design, production, materials development, quality control, as well as repair and disposal of 3D-printed components. In collaboration with its partners Airbus, Laser Zentrum Nord GmbH (LZN) and the Institute for Laser and System Technologies (iLAS) at TU Hamburg-Harburg, CENIT is working to achieve a significant simplification of product development for lightweight bionic structures using streamlined design methodologies. CENIT is thereby addressing one of the most important potentials and challenges of additive manufacturing: Entirely new types of components which cannot be manufactured using traditional production methods. “One of the main reasons why additive manufacturing and 3D printing has not yet had a major impact on aircraft manufacturing is the elaborate design process.

Since this is not yet automated, it must be carried out via a series of different software packages. Specialized software is also needed to process data for the 3D printing machines. During the design phase, the engineers thus have to switch back and forth between different tools. This makes the process time-intensive, and that in turn makes it expensive”, explains Michael Schwartz, Manager for Innovative Aerospace Solutions at CENIT. “CENIT’s work thus focuses on a major simplification of the design process. To achieve this, we are integrating all 3D print, design and data conditioning processes into a single toolset for automated bionic design. That way, we can help establish a consistent digital process chain”.

The individual components of the task field assigned to CENIT, Airbus, LZN and iLAS are the formulation of design guidelines for additive manufacturing, the development of a 3D-CAD toolset for the use of CATIA in bionic design, as well as 3D print data conditioning including bionically optimized structures. These tasks provide the cornerstones for a wide range of additional sub-tasks.

Additive Manufacturing as Enabler for Tomorrow’s Aviation

Commenting on the significance of the project for CENIT as an enterprise and for the aviation industry in general, Michael Schwartz says: “3D printing technologies and bionic structures are a major enabler in creating competitive, environment-friendly aircraft for the future. We are proud that we can contribute to such an ambitious, cutting-edge project.” He is eagerly awaiting the results of the project, which he expects to be groundbreaking: “Among other goals, we aim to achieve a reduction in overall development times for optimised 3D print components, as well as major weight-saving potentials for aircraft. These will lead to significant reductions in CO2 emissions throughout the entire service life of the aircraft”, says Schwartz.
A wide range of additional results is expected at the end of the three-year “BionicAircraft” project.

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