The AM Applications Series: Brackets

2020-01-08

Aya Bentur  

Bugatti - series-production motor bracket with integrated cooling channels

Brackets are basically parts that provide support, the most commonly known is the shelf bracket, but you can find brackets in bicycles, auto parts and many more. So why should a seemingly simple part be additively manufactured? What can be gained from designing and manufacturing brackets using AM? Next up in our #AMapplications series, additively manufactured brackets that are in use today and why.

The Right Fit

In some industries, such as aerospace and automotive, brackets are a bit more complicated than your standard shelf bracket. When the parts in need of support are more complex, the brackets become more uniquely shaped, requiring complex geometries to create the right fit. In vehicles and planes, the complex geometry is coupled with the need to reduce weight. Less weight means more cost-effective (and eco-friendly) transportation – every part matters in the overall weight calculation. These two aspects make AM more than a suitable solution for the production of brackets.

From Case Study to Real-Life Application

Airbus 3D printed - From Steel cast bracket to EOS titanium AM bracket - Make it LEO

AM brackets have been here for a while now, starting with the well-known bracket developed by Airbus in collaboration with EOS in 2014. The initial phase was a case study examining the potential benefits of an AM bracket compared to the conventional design and production of the steel cast bracket (above). I’m not sure that the same bracket reached industrial production but in 2017 Airbus installed a different titanium bracket (below), which is said to be the first AM bracket on a series production commercial aircraft. A year later Airbus integrated additively manufactured Power Door Opening System (PDOS) brackets in their planes (2nd below). Switching to AM for this part resulted in a 90% waste reduction and a 10% weight reduction. Since then Airbus has continued to develop and integrate AM parts in its aircraft. The A350 XWB aircraft, for example, has more than 1,000 additively manufactured parts including brackets.

Airbus 3D Printed Titanium Bracket Assembly Photo by Lancelot:Airbus

Additive Manufactured Metal Bracket for the GEnx Engine Approved by the FAA

Multiple Angles

When it comes to complex machinery and engines, I can imagine that the bracket needs to be almost a site-specific solution. Variations of the same bracket can be produced to fit each machine in angles and positions beyond the standard shapes and angles we’re used to in conventional manufacturing. Sometimes even the smallest part can limit the overall design, removing that limitation can allow even more design freedom in the engine as a whole.

GE and AutoDesk AM Seat Bracket

Realizing the full potential of additively manufacturing brackets means taking the geometry as far as it can go in terms of achieving the strongest and lightest structures, as well as variations. This can be done in conjunction with generative design software. The GM seat bracket, for example, was designed and optimized with Autodesk’s Fusion 360 software, the new AM part compared to the original lead to the entire assembly being 40% lighter and 20% stronger, as well as consolidating the eight original components into one (above some of the iterations in the design process, below the original part vs the additively manufactured bracket).

GM’s traditional seat bracket and its generatively designed 3D-printed bracket with Autodesk Generative Design

In some cases, the bracket becomes more than a supporting structure. For example, the additively manufactured motor bracket from Bugatti has integrated water cooling which reduces the transferred heat (up top). Its role isn’t just to support the structure, it’s an integral part of the assembly, this would be extremely difficult to achieve (if at all) without AM and generative design. The bracket has already been installed in Bugatti Chiron series vehicles produced in the Molsheim, France facility.

Replacing Parts and Inventory Methods

Brackets fit under the spare parts category. The brackets mentioned above are in most cases parts that are kept in stock for maintenance reasons but they are not your generic spare parts that can be easily obtained. This means high production and warehouse costs just for inventory’s sake. This is another reason why certain brackets and spare parts are ideal for AM – allowing the company to keep virtual inventory instead of physical inventory. One such example is a replacement bracket for Daimler diesel engine truck, manufactured by NextGenAM, a partnership between DaimlerEOS and Premium AEROTEC.

3D printed replacement bracket for Daimler diesel engine truck

In the #AMapplication series, we like to shine a light on the “supporting actors”, parts that are sometimes overlooked – this time literally supporting parts. The Bugatti motor bracket, for example, was published at the same time as the brake caliper but went unnoticed. So here’s to the parts that hold everything together (up top).

We’re always open to new applications – tell us about the AM applications you encountered, we’ll try to feature them here and follow us for more #AMapplications. For more insights and information follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.

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