Simulations help to industrialize Additive Manufacturing in Aerospace Industry

Simulations help to industrialize Additive Manufacturing in Aerospace Industry

The Industrial Challenge:

Additive manufacturing (AM) is an important tool for the space industry because it can meet structural and multi-disciplinary requirements for space applications at a much lower weight than conventional space structures made through traditional manufacturing methods. Weight is a particularly critical concern for space applications; according to industry reports, one pound of payload equates to $10,000 in launch costs. Additive manufacturing techniques can be used to lightweight nearly any kind of complex structure in launchers, propulsion, satellites and various spacecraft components. 

In the context of industrial deployment projects, experimental trial-and-error approaches classically used for prototyping must be avoided, implying large cost and elapsed time due to repeated iterations between product design, printing and test.

Hence, a digital thread is adopted and must be streamlined, in which a digital twin of the product is optimized based on simulations, in order to reach the performance and process requirements and get first-time-right additive manufacturing of the converged design solutions.

The Design4AM Project:

The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Siemens Digital Industries Software to develop aerospace design applications for metal additive manufacturing. The applications will leverage Siemens’ end-to-end software solution for industrial additive manufacturing that combines generative engineering, topology optimization, predictive analytics, process simulation, build preparation and production execution. The two-year long project, named Design4AM, is built on a strong collaboration between Siemens and Sonaca, a specialist in aerospace structures, with financial support from ESA and the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (Belspo). The Design4AM project will result in a validated process for using Siemens’ comprehensive additive manufacturing software to design and produce highly optimized, light-weighted structural parts for space applications, such as, among others, fittings (structurally bonded to CFRP panel), supports, and bipods for improved performance and cost.  

Design4AM will leverage the Siemens Digital Innovation Platform with the support of Sonaca’s experience in space applications, manufacturing features, material and process, testing and numerical methods for the validation of the chain. Siemens’ NX™ software and Simcenter™ software enable engineers to explore a wide range of design concepts in an automated closed-loop process that takes into consideration engineering performance, manufacturing process and operation cost requirements. These tools can account for manufacturing constraints such as thermo-mechanical part distortion, the structural part orientation in the building chamber or the design of supporting structures. The integrated software environment can shorten the part conceptual design and optimization process, helping enable higher performance structures to be manufactured.

Project Outlook:

Recently announced publicly (see here) during the Paris Air Show 2019, aka Salon Du Bourget, the Design4AM project activities are gaining momentum. The relevant case studies of space applications will be selected in agreement with ESA and Sonaca (e.g. supports of satellite instruments, fittings structurally bonded to CFRP panel, bipods, etc.). In parallel to this definition phase, the targeted software framework is being researched and developed, to become readily available in time to design and develop the additive manufacturing structures in the course of the project.


Figure 1: Selected by the European Space Agency (ESA), Siemens will collaborate with Sonaca in the framework of the Design4AM project to enhance the Siemens Digital Innovation Platform for industrialization of additive manufacturing in aerospace industry. Based on the Siemens’ NX™ software and Simcenter™ software, development of design methods dedicated for AM will be consolidated thanks to relevant cases studies of space applications selected in agreement with ESA and Sonaca (e.g. supports of satellite instruments, fittings structurally bonded to CFRP panel, bipods, etc).

Disclaimer and Note:


Disclaimer: The Design4AM Contract (No. 4000125583/18/NL/BJ) is carried out under the GSTP program of and funded by the European Space Agency. The view expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Space Agency.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at