QuickCast flight-ready hardware launches Hamilton Standard's success in America's Space
Putting a Space Station into orbit is the fantasy that dreams were made of 20 years ago. Today,
however, with the combined efforts of NASA, Boeing, Hamilton Standard and other subcontractors,
such a dream will become reality within the next 10 years.
Hamilton Standard Space Systems International Inc. is charged with the development, testing and
final manufacture of the temperature/humidity control system and avionics system fans of the
Space Station. The Space Systems International "Fan Team" has spent two years developing and
testing rapid prototyping (RP) alternatives to meet cost, budget and performance challenges of
its new fan designs.
Within two years, the Fan Team has taken a 3-D solid modeling system from
models used exclusively for show-and-tell to the manufacturing of space-flight-quality
hardware. Their most recent efforts demonstrate that flight-ready hardware
castings can be readily produced using 3D's QuickCast technology, slashing
production schedules by five months or more while realizing "significant
cost savings" since no hard tooling is required.
After exploring alternative RP methods for producing investment casting patterns, the Fan Team
unanimously concluded that stereolithography (SL) QuickCast patterns were the finest to date
in terms of dimensional conformity and surface finish. Moreover, the team enjoyed 100% casting
yield in their very first QuickCast investment casting trial.
The benefits already evidenced in their exploration of SL and QuickCast technology are numerous:
- SL models act as visual aids for team designers, enabling design improvement to be
identified and incorporated early on
- Rapid production of investment casting patterns with high accuracy and greatly improved
- Eliminates hard tooling and associated high costs of tooling re-work
- Accelerates product development schedules by more than six months
- "Paperless manufacturing" is realized -- up front tolerance studies are eliminated and
formal drawings created after the hardware has actually been tested
- The same three-dimensional databases used for SL manufacturing are also being used in
other components to create post-processing files for 5-axis milling centers
Hamilton Standard's application of QuickCast took place in their development of a fan for the
avionics cooling package. 3-D CATIA solid model files were developed at Space Systems
International for each of the three housings that make up the fan assembly. The data was then
provided to United Technologies' Rapid Prototype Development Center at Pratt & Whitney for
production of the stereolithography parts.
For Space Systems International, investment casting using 3D's QuickCast technology presented a
new RP technology frontier. Unsure how the SL 5180 resin used for QuickCast parts would perform
in the casting process, the Fan Team turned to Texas Instruments and neighboring foundry,
Solidiform, members of 3D's earlier QuickCast beta program. Team members visited both facilities
to research the new casting technique. Reasonably assured of its success, three SL parts were
provided to Solidiform for casting. Three aluminum castings were subsequently produced which
met all of the requirements of MIL-STD-21180 Grade B on the first pour. These castings will be
used to complete the development hardware portion of the project.
Explains Bob Davis, "During development testing we identify design changes needed to maximize our
fan efficiency. We have already been able to predict what flight quality hardware will look like.
Even today, traditional methods mean a 30-week lead time to get a hard tool casting, and that
casting is only as good as the tooling supplier's interpretation of the 2-D CAD drawing. With
QuickCast we were able to complete castings of two housings in less time than it would have
traditionally taken to get the drawings alone."
- CATIA 3-D solid modeling software
- SLA 500 with Cibatool SL 5180 resin
- QuickCast software release 1.0
- Standard foundry investment casting procedures for QuickCast
Headquartered in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, U.S.A., Hamilton Standard
is a division of United Technologies Corporation. The company is a fully
integrated supplier of aerospace systems and equipment, controls and accessories.
Its worldwide markets are commercial, regional and general aviation; military
aviation; space and aftermarket services. An early developer of space
life-support technology, the company has contributed to the growing U.S.
space program for more than three decades.