by John McCann, June 6, 2017

A Collaboration of Additive Manufacturing and Generative Design: The Next Generation Seat Frame

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The collaboration with Andy Harris, Andreas Bastian and Aristo Cast has proved to be a phenomenal project that exemplifies new techniques of design and manufacturing. With Andy Harris’ aircraft seat frame aimed at meeting design objectives for carriage capacity and strength, a lattice structure resulted from their design optimization software, Netfabb. This generated lattice structure had a significant reduction of weight in comparison to the standard seat frame. Now why is this so significant? Anything that moves requires energy, and energy whether exerted by a motor or actuator requires fuel consumption. With less mass that’s required to move, less fuel is required to used. This is great news in terms of cost savings as well as reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.


With such an innovative design therein lies another issue of how manufacture this. Bastian and Andy quickly realized that the conventional 3D print would still be costly with production volumes. By reaching out and working with Ziemba and Paul Leonard of Aristo-Cast, they formulated a hybrid form of additive manufacturing and the casting process – by creating a ceramic mold to 3D print and from there start the casting process. This greatly expands the material selection and size of the part. Traditionally, the aerospace seat frame is made from aluminum, however this seat made from magnesium would significantly reduce the cost while keeping the necessary strength requirement.

The result? A fully scalable production ready design that can be easily completed while reducing the weight of the frame yet maintaining strength requirements. Bastian ran a cost analysis for replacing seats of an A380 Airbus – a total savings of $206 million in a 20- year lifespan which can be converted to a reduction of 126,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. There are many implications that this experiment has accomplished by pushing the limits of software with generative design in Netfabb and manufacturing with the combination of casting and 3d printing.

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