Renaissance Services, a service provider to aerospace and defence companies, will combine 3D printing and structural castings to support the production of legacy aircraft components after securing a $2.9m US Air Force contract.
The contract ignites the RECHARGE program – short for Rapid Engineered Castings: Housing for Aircraft & Reliable Gearboxes for Engines – which will see Renaissance Services aim to reduce the time and cost it takes to manufacture critical components for Air Force legacy systems. These include gearboxes and other essential housings.
RECHARGE has been established after it was awarded an Air Force Rapid Innovation Fund, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center wanting to revive the manufacture of legacy components and accelerate the transition of contemporary technologies to production. Renaissance has been awarded the contract as a result of its proven capabilities of harnessing 3D printing to create ceramic tooling for such applications as aerospace castings. The company has long-assisted players in the aerospace sector to integrate solutions which reduce cost and improve quality. Its role within the RECHARGE program will be similar.
“The Air Force has a long list of critical parts for aircraft and engines that have not been produced for years,” says Robert Morris, Renaissance Services co-founder and RECHARGE Program Manager. “It’s not uncommon for production sources to be unknown, tooling to be non-existent, 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 moulds, we can then work with the foundry to produce a casting to significantly reduce the lead time and address the need.”
Renaissance feed CAD data into its 3D printing machinery to manufacture ceramic moulds within a week, and then ships them to a foundry to be used for production castings. In fewer than 30 days, Renaissance and the Precision Castparts (PCC) Structurals foundry go from ceramic mould generation to finished casting for an Air Force engine gearbox, a lead time reduction of around 90%. In addition to PCC Structurals, Renaissance will lean on the assistance of several other foundries too, RECHARGE seeking to establish a network that can rapidly respond to the needs of the Air Force. Per Renaissance, they each bring an important capability to the effort, including the ability to work with a wide range of materials, like aluminium, magnesium, and nickel-based alloys.
“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,” Morris concludes.