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ADDITIVE MANUFACTURINGSECTION TITLE


Andrew Woods discusses the use of electroforming for aerospace lip skins and more FUNCTION FORM AND


The fi rst stage of the process sees metallic pellets introduced into a precisely controlled bath that dissolve in the electroforming solution by passing current through anodes resulting in the formation of nickel ions


a controlled process in microscopic layers to highly precise geometries. T is manufacturing process has been adopted by Doncasters, a leading manufacturer of high- precision alloy components, for more than 13 years - predominantly for erosion shields on rotor blades. During that time, the team at its Bramah facility in Sheffi eld has been working to identify further applications to help engineers drive down cost, improve quality and extend component lifespan. At the 2018 Farnborough Air Show,


E


Doncasters unveiled a pioneering project: a fully electroformed leading-edge erosion


lectroforming is a proven, production-based additive manufacturing process used to physically deposit metal in


shield for an aerospace engine inlet lip skin on a passenger jet. Electroforming isn’t actually a new technology. It has been used for well over 100 years for a variety of applications and is commonplace in the jewellery industry where you will fi nd electroformed pendants and necklaces. Interestingly, the women’s Wimbledon fi nal trophy was manufactured in the 1800s by electroforming. However, in terms of aerospace applications, it is relatively new.


EARLY ADOPTION IN AEROSPACE The current main use of electroforming is for rotative fi xed components that protect the leading edge of composite structures. T e electroform parts are


form-fi tting and stress-free products that do not twist, warp or spring back, and are prepped and bonded and mechanically fi xed components. Nickel-based alloys are the most popular choice of material for electroformed parts due to nickel’s favourable mechanical properties that make it well-suited to many applications. Nickel/cobalt products, in particular, have internal stress low enough for the electroforming process while enabling the creation of an alloy-enhanced fi nished part. T e main application of nickel cobalt parts is for erosion protection. Since 2005, Doncasters has been developing helicopter blades through the process of electroforming. T e high propeller speeds they operate at, coupled with the harsh


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