Aerosint, Fraunhofer, and Vectoflow receive grant to build airflow sensors

Aerosint, the Belgium-based award-winning SLS 3D printer manufacturer, Fraunhofer IGCV, and Vectoflow, a Germany-based fluid-dynamic metrology device developer have been awarded a €750,000 grant by the Eurostars program for developing multi-functional airflow sensors. Flow probes in the sensors are employed for building gas turbines and jet engines. In order to increase their accuracy and affordability, the companies, along with an international project consortium, will use Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) technique to create advanced systems by using additive manufacturing. Katharina Kreitz, Co-director, Vectoflow, says that to use multiple materials in one printing job leads to a world of possibilities.

The joint development project will begin next month and will go on for 30 months. The project aims to lay down the groundwork for ‘smart’ fluid flow probes in optimized geometries. The consortium partners will utilize the cumulative funding of €1 million to make flow probes attached to the fuselage of aircraft by applying their technologies. The partners explain that flow probes act as speed sensors or pitot tubes in a fuselage of aircraft that are prone to blockage due to ice. Aerosint’s multi-material powder recoater technology facilitates the production of 3D printed pitot tubes equipped with heating properties that stop the formation of ice. Vectoflow’s know-how in 3D printing single-material flow probes will help accelerate the project. Fraunhofer IGCV will rely on its expertise in the laser co-processing of multiple metals to deal with the fundamental challenge of processing multiple materials via a single build process.

Christine Anstätt, Fraunhofer IGCV, who is credited with co-processing materials that were previously assumed to be incompatible, says that the combination of a copper alloy and steel in a single build process was thought to be impossible, mostly because of the vast difference in the properties of the materials, particularly their thermal conductivity and expansion. Nonetheless, by adjusting the overlap area between the two materials, tuning the process materials and adapting the scanning order, they could build bimetallic parts without imperfections, adds Anstätt. The team will make demonstrator flow probes, and Vectoflow will examine its functioning.

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