3D Printing Speeds up Conversion of Aircraft for Use as Flying Eye Hospital
3D Printing Case – Aerospace
Orbis, an organization dedicated to providing ophthalmic training to communities around the world, utilizes airborne training facilities they have named Flying Eye Hospitals.
Orbis’s goal is to eliminate unnecessary blindness, which afflicts 39 million globally and is preventable with proper medical care.
The Orbis team performs eye surgeries and educates doctors in the proper execution of eye surgeries through two-way audio-visual links. To aid and instruct as many people as possible, Orbis’ entire hospital and training facility is housed on a converted MD 10-30 aircraft which they call the Flying Eye Hospital.
As part of the conversion needed to enable the aircraft to serve as a Flying Eye Hospital, Stratasys had the opportunity to assist with this unique aircraft conversion.
Have Some Extra Time? Watch this Mini Documentary with Daniel Craig and the Orbis Team
Making an Air Duct to conform to FAA requirements
One of the more complex components needed for the new Flying Eye Hospital project was an air duct required to conform to certain curvatures as well as meet all FAA requirements for airflow. Its purpose is to filter air between the cockpit and the operating rooms. SIE chose to use additive manufacturing to create the customized air duct.
The aerospace industry is using additive manufacturing to reduce material costs, decrease labor content, and increase availability. While aerospace was an early adopter of additive manufacturing technologies, the expansion and widespread use of 3D printing in aerospace in recent years is due to several factors:
Additive manufacturing gives users ability to create complex and unique parts otherwise unachievable with traditional manufacturing this includes construction of end-use parts with hollow cavities that lower a part’s overall weight without compromising on strength or mechanical performance or safety
This fulfills the requirement for customization and small-scale production which is often needed for aerospace manufacturing. The whole process enables efficient manufacturing techniques which generate less waste, crucial to the expensive materials used in aerospace manufacturing.
3D printing for complex but affordable fitting and design
3D printing processes are very viable for complex fitting and design, which would normally cost quite a bit if machined,” says Mark Curran, Senior Engineer at SIE. “In discussing our needs with Stratasys’ Manufacturing Engineer Jesse Marin, he informed me that Stratasys has material that is FAA compliant for smoke and burn regulations.”
“We were able to design mounting feature attachment fittings into the actual part. The mounting features are usually separate. By designing them into the FDM ULTEM component, we were able to reduce our overall part count, which is always a good thing,” Curran adds.
Building a part to function on an actual aircraft (versus a prototype or non-critical part) required vigorous inspection by the FAA.
The FAA sent two representatives to Stratasys to test and certify the design and build of the air duct. First, a Designated Engineering Representative (DER), who is commissioned by the FAA and carries a legal license for engineering, visited Stratasys to verify the design of the duct would meet airworthiness requirements.
Once the duct had been built, a Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR) inspects the part to ensure the process used meets all airworthiness requirements and ultimately, that the part was built correctly.
“Being responsible for FAA certifications opened our eyes to what additive manufacturing can accomplish,” Marin said. “We’ve always been dedicated to internal research, and improving manufacturing processes, and I think it really paid off in this project.”
An earlier prototype of the air duct has been awarded a place in the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in Washington, D.C., to display the capabilities of 3D printing and transfer those visionary and realistic ideas to the mainstream U.S manufacturing sector.
For More Information on Prototyping with FAA certified materials, for aerospace applications, or for anything related with this post, be sure to speak with one of our Additive Manufacturing Experts.