Liebherr and Airbus achieve Additive Manufacturing milestone with EASA-approved flex shaft

This titanium flex shaft is entering serial production for Airbus (Courtesy Liebherr-Aerospace) | FR: Cet arbre flexible en titane entre en production de série pour Airbus (Courtesy Liebherr-Aerospace).

Liebherr-Aerospace, a first-tier supplier of aerospace parts, has integrated a 3D-printed flex shaft in the Airbus A350 high lift system. The unit has been approved by Airbus as well as by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency EASA for serial production.

(For those who do not know, flexible shafts transmit rotary motion much like a solid shaft, but can be routed over, under and around obstacles where a solid shaft cannot be used.)

Produced from titanium powder using Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM), the flext shaft reveals an increased degree of complexity at the design level _ yet has successfully made its way into aviation.

Indeed, Liebherr was able to replace the assembly of seven parts, formerly conventionally manufactured, by just one single 3D-printed component. The lower number of parts leads to improved reliability and significant weight reduction. Compared to the 3D-printed parts previously developed and manufactured by Liebherr, the flex shaft has a higher complexity and represents a next step towards applications in highly integrated systems.

The flex shaft is part of the Airbus A350 high lift system, where it will be integrated in the active differential gearbox of the flap system. The flex shaft transmits the rotary movement to a position sensor and thus compensates for an angle and axis misalignment between gearbox and sensor.

For the record, the solution provider Liebherr-Aerospace can already look back at quite a range of its products manufactured by ALM. At the beginning of 2019, for example, Liebherr-Aerospace started the serial production of 3D printed parts with the introduction of a printed proximity sensor bracket for the A350 nose landing gear. This bracket was the first-ever introduced Airbus system part qualified for titanium additive layer manufacturing.

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