Italian hydraulic component maker Aidro Hydraulics has used additive manufacturing technology to create a new generation of hydraulic solutions. The company's goal is to go beyond the limits of traditional production, especially for complex components like manifolds, while achieving faster response times and better performance.
AidroHydraulics introduced the EOS M290 in 2017 and is able to design and print custom solutions with complex geometries through additive manufacturing technology. Lightweight and compact hydraulic products can integrate multiple components into one, and additive manufacturing has proven to be ideal, especially for the production of small batch parts for specific applications. AidroHydraulics has more than 35 years of industry experience and regards additive manufacturing as an ideal choice for future development. To take full advantage of additive manufacturing, the company is designing 3D printed metal sheaths that can be prototyped in hours.
The image above shows a 3D printed stainless steel manifold. This is an example of how to redesign traditional hydraulic valve blocks using different and innovative design methods. Connect the valves as needed by placing them where needed. In addition, the internal passage of the valve block has been optimized to improve flow and save space, as the auxiliary process hole is no longer needed, so the potential risk of fluid leakage is also eliminated.
Not only that, Aidro Hydraulics also conducted other case studies to analyze the advantages of 3D printing through comparison with traditional production methods (casting and CNC).
The traditional production method starts with a piece of metal material, processes the external excess parts to obtain the desired shape by traditional manufacturing methods, and then drills out the internal pipeline for the hydraulic fluid to circulate. It is very difficult to accurately drill these pipelines. The pipelines need to accurately meet at certain points, but in some "blind" drilling positions, the pipelines often cannot be accurately aligned. In addition, when drilling a hole, a process hole needs to be opened and sealed at the end, which causes the component to leak at the position of the process hole.
With the use of additive manufacturing, the internal piping of the hydraulic valve block has been designed and optimized, and the fluid flow in the internal piping has been improved. The volume of the entire valve block is also smaller than that of traditionally designed valve blocks, and the potential Leakage issues are also avoided.
In addition, in the entire processing process, it takes several months (from 6 to 12 months) to process the metal block to the finished product using traditional manufacturing methods. However, using 3D printing technology, printing of hydraulic parts will be completed within a few days. If parts need to be printed or painted, the completion time may increase by 1-2 weeks.
In terms of cost, additive manufacturing is significantly cheaper for manufacturing small batches and small volumes of hydraulic components. In terms of prototypes, 3D printing allows you to print different models of the same prototype at the same time.
The materials of hydraulic products must have sufficient strength and corrosion resistance to safely handle the high pressures of hydraulic systems. The most common materials are carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminum. 3D printing offers a wider choice of materials through the same production process. Therefore, you can choose stainless steel (316L, 17-4PH), aluminum alloy (AlSi10Mg), titanium alloy (Ti6Al4V), high temperature nickel-based alloy (IN625 or IN718) or maraging steel.
In another specific test, a 3D printed manifold was redesigned to hit lighter objects. The production materials required for additive manufacturing have been reduced significantly, and the final weight of the valve has been reduced by 60%. By adding a pressure reducing cylinder, the direct operating pressure of the stainless steel valve is reduced, while the standard pressure reducing valve is usually made of galvanized steel. In addition, during pressure testing, 3D printed valves provided the same results as traditional valves.
Aidro Hydraulics uses aluminum alloy for 3D printing
In order to test various materials provided by additive manufacturing, the hydraulic valve is 3D printed using stainless steel, aluminum alloy and maraging steel. Stainless steel has high corrosion resistance and is widely used in special applications such as oil and gas and naval fields. Aluminum is characterized by its light weight, and maraging steels are known to have excellent strength and hardness without losing their ductility.
"The advantage we have seen is that lightweight aluminum alloys are perhaps the lightest materials with good mechanical properties," said Valeria Tirelli, CEO of Aidro Hydraulics. "In fact, we can design and print like ordinary traditional The pipe is a 250 bar hydraulic manifold. In addition, due to the very precise design and in-depth finite element analysis, we have successfully produced hydraulic component solutions that can work at higher pressures. In the traditional hydraulic field, It is believed that aluminum alloys are not suitable for high pressures, but thanks to AM and new design methods, we have achieved very good results. "
AidroHydraulics mainly uses stainless steel and aluminum alloy, especially AlSi10Mg, which is the most common aluminum alloy in 3D printing. In addition, the upcoming F357 aluminum alloy (AlSi7Mg0.6) does not contain beryllium.
"For 3D printed aluminum alloys, we focus on optimizing weight," said ValeriaTirelli. "For example, we designed a hydraulic manifold for handheld device applications, and we achieved a 70% weight reduction compared to traditional manifolds. However, we are also interested in trying out new materials being developed at the research center. "
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