It's not difficult to get to the Turin Additive Lab. You just have to make your way to the Politecnico in Turin, and right there, next to the Officine Grandi Riparazioni (OGR), you'll find the place where Avio Aero is inventing the aviation components of the future born. The entrance is that of the Politecnico Campus, close to the very first laboratory founded by the Avio Aero in partnership with the Polytechnic of Turin, the Great Lab. The latter was founded in 2008 to develop eco-compatible technologies for new-generation civil aviation engines.
But the TAL is something different, it combines design and experimentation for innovation. The laboratory started to operate in May 2017, hosting machines which use 3D metal printing technology to combine virtual and experimental HW experience for innovation. These are 3 DMLM (Direct Metal Laser Melting) machines and a brand-new M2 machine by Concept Laser, soon to be joined by one more machine coming from the GE Additive company which specializes in DMLM. Avio Aero and Turin Politecnico decided to open this new research center dedicated to additive manufacturing in order to exploit the business's industrial and engineering competencies, and combine them with the University's expertise in materials and additive technologies research.
A state-of-the-art model of partnership between university and industry, focusing on one of the most revolutionary technologies on today's industrial production scene. Also, however, a type of partnership in continuity with Avio Aero's strategy: to share its technological growth with talented young people from the top Italian and European engineering universities.
What are this laboratory's purposes? The Turin Additive Lab studies the best technological solutions aimed at producing aviation components for the engines of the future, with lighter weight and ever-higher performance. This also implies an extensive use of prototypes, that are then tested in the top European research projects, such as the Racer, one of the biggest Clean Sky 2 platforms which Airbus recently presented at the Le Bourget Air Show.
Clearly, these technological solutions also imply the introduction of design for additive. "Design for additive is the key to a process that allows to manufacture very complex geometries, enabling disruptive product innovation. We can optimize weight and performance and, at the same time, we can simplify the products, by rethinking components functions and even reducing their number… we are not using additive manufacturing to produce the same objects that can be obtained by conventional technologies, we are rather changing the way we design, to exploit all the benefits of this new technology" explains Claudia Schipani, Additive Design and Tech Subsection Manager at Avio Aero.
And this certainly applies to the development of a very important engine of the future, the ATP (Advanced TurboProp, since last March 2018 officially renamed GE Catalyst). In fact, the TAL will work on the optimization of ATP components, including the combustor, with the aim of producing a module made entirely by additive manufacturing: a major challenge for the Avio Aero engineers who are designing this module, fundamental for both the TAL and the new technology.